To my way of thinking, most film festivals generally fall into two categories. They’re either cotillions of pale, anorak-wearing, trainspotter-looking film guppies; or they’re teeming scrums of beefy men wearing the dark-suit-and-T-shirt combination favored by Eastern European bodyguards. The Cannes Film Festival is different. Inasmuch as it is held in May in the South of France, the weather is considerably more temperate than at the high-altitude festivals, so the anoraks are replaced by linen jackets. And those men in dark suits and T-shirts actually are Eastern European bodyguards.

The festival, now celebrating its 76th year, was a post–World War II confection that was founded to compete with the esteemed Venice Film Festival, which had been launched by Giuseppe Volpi, in 1932, as a sort of adjunct to the Biennale, which was established almost 40 years earlier.

Cannes quickly became known as a showcase for bikini-clad starlets like Brigitte Bardot and as a filmmaker’s first or last chance to make a deal. In this week’s special issue, Sam Wasson explains how Francis Ford Coppola, despite his success with the first two Godfather films, couldn’t find a studio in Hollywood willing to finance Apocalypse Now. The international producers in Cannes were less squeamish, and, in 1979, Coppola’s tumultuous-in-the making Vietnam epic was shown at Cannes as a film in progress—and shared the festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or, with The Tin Drum.

Graydon Carter, Hedi Slimane, and Bryan Lourd at the 2002 Vanity Fair Cannes party, photographed by Jonathan Becker.

This year’s festival has a lot of names familiar to American and English film nuts. The various jurors include Paul Dano, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly. There are a lot of festival veterans in competition, including Ken Loach, with The Old Oak, and Wim Wenders, with his production Perfect Days. Todd Haynes is back with his new film, May December. There is The Zone of Interest, based on the Martin Amis book. It’s directed by Jonathan Glazer, who made Sexy Beast.

Festival favorite Wes Anderson will be taking up a lot of the attention with Asteroid City, stocked as it is with a cast that includes most of hipster Hollywood. There are also a lot of French, Middle Eastern, and Asian films that will set film-nerd hearts aflutter.

Cannes quickly became known as a showcase for bikini-clad starlets like Brigitte Bardot and as a filmmaker’s first or last chance to make a deal.

Out of competition, but clearly of enormous interest, is Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the book by David Grann. It’s got two of Scorsese’s principal leading men in it, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. And Harrison Ford returned with the fifth installment of his Indy series, this one called Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. It’s directed by James Mangold, who made what is most surely the greatest car-racing film of all time, Ford v Ferrari, or as they called it in France, Le Mans ’66. (My eldest daughter, who saw the film before me, declared that it was complete and utter “dad porn.” And she wasn’t wrong.)

One of my most memorable outings to the festival was in 2008 to see the previous installment of Indiana Jones, the one with Shia LaBeouf. I went with my wife and three sons. The boys wore tuxedos, as required for entry to the Grand Palais, but as we got out of the car, one of the gatekeepers stopped my youngest son. He had a tuxedo on, but the sentry objected to his black, high-top Converse All Stars. Our driver overheard all of this and asked my son what his shoe size was. It was close enough to his, so they switched footwear and we made our way in.

On the way out, things got a bit hairy. My kids’ cell phones didn’t work in Europe, and none of them had brought cash. Trying to find them all in a sea of hundreds upon hundreds of men all dressed in dinner jackets was like trying to find Waldo in a maze of candy canes. My wife, Anna, and I got in the car and just made circuits up and down the Croisette, trying to spot them. We rounded up our oldest, and then our No. 2 son. But our youngest was still at large.

Finally, I spotted him across the grass median and on the other side of the road. I bolted out of the car and ran to him. As we made our way back to the car, a cluster of paparazzi screamed for a photo. I stood there with him and told him that I was sorry for this. Then one of the photographers made a motion to shoo me out of the frame. “Shia! Shia!” they yelled at my son, who thought it was funny and smiled. That week there must have been at least one photo in the myriad French magazines that were covering the festival that showed a very Carter-looking Shia LaBeouf.

Bob Evans, Carter, and Barry Diller outside the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in 2002, photographed by Jonathan Becker.

More than two decades ago, I actually came to the festival with a film. It was The Kid Stays in the Picture, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s about Robert Evans, the fabulous-looking and wildly successful head of production at Paramount Pictures in the 1970s. Among other things, he got Chinatown and The Godfather made. The documentary, which was directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein, was both a hoot and a dark parable, in that Bob, whose life was a roundelay of beautiful women and memorable films, saw his world all but dissolve at the hands of the demon cocaine.

Bob and I took the film to the festival in all its black-tie glory, and when the lights went up, the audience gave him a lengthy standing ovation. I would see Bob every time I went out to Los Angeles, and I swear he thought of that evening as one of the happiest nights of his life. It was certainly one of mine.

Over the years, Vanity Fair threw a dinner and party at the Hôtel du Cap that became one of the seminal events of the festival—much like the magazine’s Oscar party is during the Academy Awards. The Oscar party was bigger in terms of worldwide recognition. But that was always a long night, and it was stressful—at least for me. The ones we did at the Hôtel du Cap were just plain fun. They began with dinner, followed by a party that filtered down to the infinity pool, which looked out on the boats lit up in the harbor.

With all the drinking and revelry, things didn’t always go as planned. Our London editor got stuck in the men’s room one night—the door handle had jammed. Finally, a man kicked the door in. It was Jean-Claude Van Damme. On another occasion, a well-known French actress passed out mid-dinner and was carried to the lounge. It was later determined that she hadn’t balanced her food intake with her wine intake. She was the color of asphalt. I thought she was dead. The hotel staff wheeled in a gurney and whisked her out through a back door and on to a nearby hospital. She was fine.

One year, I co-hosted the dinner with Richard Plepler when he was running HBO, and at the end of the evening we both just pinched ourselves at our good fortune to have jobs that allowed us this special night.

This year, Air Mail is doing the big dinner at the festival, in conjunction with Warner Bros. Discovery. And once again, my co-host is another old friend, David Zaslav, who, with Bob Iger at Disney, is one of the two high regents of contemporary Hollywood. It’s always good to have a theme at these things, and this year the dinner and the after-party are in honor of Warner Bros.’ 100th anniversary.

Like Bob Evans, David loves film and has a wide circle of goodwill that surrounds him. Which should stand us in good stead on our big night at the Hôtel du Cap, when we both pull duty as glorified greeters. And in a lovely turn of fortune, David bought Bob’s glorious old John Woolf–designed house in Beverly Hills. It’s called Woodland. And depending on how this year’s Cannes night goes, it is where David might just throw a small Oscar dinner next year.

Graydon Carter is a Co-Editor at AIR MAIL