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You’re Not Going to Cannes, But You Can Play the Cannes Board Game

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Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images

It’s Cannes 2024, and you’re not going and neither am I. Might I suggest a board game inspired by the iconique festival of film?

In Cannes: Stars, Scripts, and Screens, players are small-time producers trying to make and sell as many genre films as possible. Dutch board-game company Splotter Spellen — a cult favorite among fans of complicated strategy games with too many tiny pieces — released Cannes in 2002 and never reprinted it. The tone of its unhelpful rule book is cheeky, taunting: “Maybe this year you’ll make it big … nominations are due to be published any day now, and hey, who knows, maybe you will finally get that Oscar or Palme d’Or you deserve. Or will you?” (What resentful screenwriter lent their skills to that copy?) “They say girlie movies like you’ve been making lately are going out of fashion, that the modern public has a yearning for plotless action titles. Maybe it is time to invite that rotten art critic over for drinks and convince her of the value of your masterpieces … or tune into the old boys’ network and really get the show on the road.”

My own version of an old boys’ network — my group chat of female film professionals who all live near one another in New York — tipped me off to the game, dropping it into conversation somewhere between dissing the new Harmony Korine and scheming about plus-ones for a MoMA party. When I found a reseller hawking it, I was taken by the kitschy hand-painted artwork and the prospect of seeing myself mocked as I am indeed the rotten art critic. Of course, you can bribe me with a hot invitation.

Cannes is a turn-based game of collecting resources. To make an action movie, for example, you need a celebrity and a special effect. To get a special effect, you need a computer. To get a computer, you need a computer chip — in the illustration, it’s held between two fingers with long red nails. The hexagonal tiles evoke a more popular game of exacting Germanic origin, Settlers of Catan. With wheat fields and woodlands replaced by beer steins and printer paper, Cannes is a highfalutin version of survival, though it hasn’t yet evolved past cell phones with antennae. At the top of the kingdom is, like, Vincent Gallo.

It takes a while to corral the group chat into playing. We’ve got a couple of publicists deep in a promotion cycle (for The People’s Joker, comedian Vera Drew’s anarchic debut feature). I escape to L.A. One writer is in the final round of interviews for a role at Film at Lincoln Center. We once reschedule to catch a self-distributed movie while it’s screening at the Roxy.

When we finally sit down to play, independent filmmaker Kit Zauhar, who has walked her fair share of well-trodden red carpets, joins. “It feels like it contains the nuances of a real film festival,” she says. “You have to get fucked-up, meet some disgusting old man … I guess you should also be smoking cigars.”

Indeed, tiny cardboard cigars represent the Harvey Weinsteins and Scott Rudins. (Remember, we have returned to 2002.) They act as permanent links in a production network, freeing you up to join a party or pursue a special-effects tile despite its incompatibility with your current marquee.

The game ends when the tiles run out, which Splotter thinks should take between 45 and 90 minutes. We skewed toward 90. I win, marginally, with 13 million dollars made from my romance film. While it has no bearing on points, it was decided that the film stars Sydney Sweeney, prompting discussion of whether it’s a bad sign if a man is adamantly into Sydney Sweeney. It is worth searching “Sydney Sweeney Cannes 2023” for the dresses, though she was not on the Croisette to promote a film but to co-host a lunch with Miu Miu. To get in the mind of the Cannes player, you should work yourself up about the state of culture and its infrastructure; you should feel bitterness coursing through you — about not having the right connections, look, or funds to achieve star status.

While the world’s most prestigious film festival is open to all genres, the odds are stacked so that it takes a miraculous combination of elements to get a horror or low-budget indie into the competition. The Cannes game wouldn’t be so charming without the feeling that you really are down and out and need just one IFC exec to take a chance on you.

Most of all, it inspires wistfulness about being in your railroad apartment’s living room and not skipping a screening to drink an Aperol spritz. You aren’t even a local teen dressed in mandatory black tie holding a handmade sign asking for unused tickets. Only two of us are going to the festival this year. As we play, they’re texting about a room for rent, tallying euros. “Is it worth it?” I ask.

“It is so fun, the most fun,” my friends tell me. “You just need to be there and see it.” They proceed to recount a surfeit of juicy, off-the-record stories about the infamous eligible bachelors of the genre-film world, a scene Zauhar describes as having “low-key band-geek vibes.”

I resolve to go one day, and it won’t be for men or money but to witness firsthand this event that’s so singular someone made a board game out of it. Until then, I’ll be practicing.

'Cannes: Stars, Scripts, and Screens'
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‘Cannes: Stars, Scripts, and Screens’

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Greta Rainbow , 2024-05-13 16:00:15

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