The Cannes film festival, with its celebrities, soirees and stunts, can seem pretty unreal most of the time.
It should be no surprise then that it has carved out a significant virtual presence on the Internet, and this year more than ever.
Countless blogs, websites linked to the thousands of films and production companies, and a torrent of e-mails to and from festival-goers are making ethernet connections glow hot as the cinema event – which turned 60 – embraces the on-line world.
Leonardo DiCaprio, at the festival to show an eco-documentary he made, "The 11th Hour," was a high-profile proponent of the move.
He pointed journalists to a website for all the documentation on his film, taking a "green" stand on the Internet instead of handing out reams of information on paper, as the thousands of other filmmakers were doing.
The Iranian director of one of the films competing for Cannes’s Palme d’Or prize, "Persepolis," was also online on the popular site MySpace (www.myspace.com/persepolislefilm) to drum up attention.
"We are offering cinema places everywhere in France so you can go to sneak previews of ‘Persepolis’," Marjane Satrapi writes in French on the site.
"But shhh! The Cannes festival isn’t finished yet, so these screenings are meant to be secret and private and are reserved just for you."
MySpace – which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and thus affiliated to his movie studio holdings – also took over part of the Cannes beach to host members of the site.
The festival’s organisers themselves have made the world’s top cinema event more accessible to the public on their site (www.festival-cannes.com), even giving a daily list of the celebrities who arrive in the Riviera resort each day.
Bloggers, of course, are all over the festival — and those actually here are often getting by without the corporate expenses that keep most of the 15,000 attendees fuelled up on champagne.
"The bus ride from Nice and the long walk from my hotel to the Croisette are a clear reminder of my low budget status but the joy of Cannes is that when the lights go down it really is about the films and not the money," wrote British producer Christopher Young on his Internet journal (seachd.typepad.com/blog/).
Some French bloggers, having a get-together in a tented restaurant on an overpriced hotel-owned beach, didn’t hold back on the cash, however, as they splashed out on a 150-euro- (200-dollar-)a-head dinner.
"We have one thing in common, and that’s blogging, and now we’re here to get to know each other," said one of them, Olivier Martin.
Cinema was, of course, high up on the discussion, but "it’s really a bloggers’ party, so we talk mainly about the Internet as well," he said.
Among them was a French director/actress looking to ride on the coat-tails of the blogosphere by talking up her short movie, "Poker Hand," to the bloggers and plugging her password-protected tie-in website (partie2poker.blogspot.com).
"I discovered the world of blogging like everybody, not so long ago, and the fact to be at Cannes together (with the bloggers), at an event that represents the image of cinema is for me something exceptional," said Esperence Pham Thai Lan, whose family is of Vietnamese origin.
"It’s like there is an alliance forming between the two worlds, that of bloggers, and that of cinema."
And for cinephiles who can’t make it in person to Cannes, the Internet is also offering a solution: the festival has been recreated in the popular virtual dimension of Second Life, an online 3D world peopled with avatars.