Cannes: The show is well and truly on
Cannes: The Cannes Film Festival opens today. This year it has had to overcome ash clouds, freak waves, Greece's financial meltdown and sniping from the sidelines about a perceived weakness in the films on view.
Well from where I am sitting - a beachside cafe just off the Croisette - the show is well and truly on.
To my right a Rolls-Royce cabriolet nuzzles up against a matt-black Ferrari while women strut by with pooches in pouches and dazzle passing aircraft with their toothy smiles.
Marquees are popping up around me on the beach like candles on a birthday cake. It's like 200 concurrent wedding receptions taking place, all paid for by a rich bloke with no taste.
People here don't have eyes, they have Ray-Bans. It is magnificent and surreal, alluring yet repulsive.
The strangeness of being here is heightened at this precise time in British history. As is the case in the UK right now, everybody in Cannes is talking about the behind-closed-door secret deals and the gossip from inside the parties. And yet there is no mention of Cameron or Clegg or Miliband or Cable.
It's about Cate Blanchett, Jean-Luc Godard and Harvey Weinstein and takes place on capacious yachts and breezy seaside rooftop bars.
You can see the Brits from a mile away. They're the ones who look dog-tired and light-headed. Not from being 24-hour party people, but from being 24-hour news addicts, watching and listening to every political twist and turn from back home.
At least there's plenty of British representation at this year's Cannes to make the homesick hack feel at least a little connected with events across the Channel.
I've just stepped out of the first screening of Robin Hood, Ridley Scott's take on the well-known story. Russell Crowe is doing for Robin Hood what Daniel Craig did for James Bond.
That is to do away with all wry one-liners and get stuck into proper action-adventure mode; all humour dispensed with to be replaced by sweeping camera moves and sound design as in your face as one of Robin's arrows. At the end nobody clapped and nobody booed, which seemed about right.
Elsewhere there's a new movie from Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette) called Tamara Drewe which is adapted from Posy Simmonds' graphic novel and Guardian comic strip.
Alicia Duffy directs All Good Children, her first feature film, a story based on Sam Taylor's novel The Republic of Trees. Enda Walsh, the Irish playwright sees his play Chatroom turned into a film starring Hannah Murray from Skins and Carey Mulligan is in the much-anticipated Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps.
And then there is the competition proper that starts tomorrow. Britain is represented by two directors, veterans Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, plus the script for Fair Game which has been written by John and Jez Butterworth and stars Naomi Watts.
But the film I am most looking forward to seeing is Mathieu Amalric's competition opener, Tournee (On Tour).
It's a movie with the perfect "elevator pitch": a comedy about a group of American burlesque strippers on tour in the French provinces. It was probably funded by the time the lift doors opened on the seventh floor.