CANNES, France — Celebrity watching is something of an endurance sport at the Cannes Film Festival, the 11-day extravaganza held every year on the French Riviera. Movie fans stake out the red carpet all day in the hopes of scoring a selfie or two with a big-name star. Die-hards register well before the festival’s start for the right to park stepladders on the sidewalk directly facing the carpeted staircase.
On Wednesday, in the cordoned area where the stepladders stand, Martine Santoro, a retired restaurant worker who said she hadn’t missed a festival in 25 years, was proudly passing around a selfie taken the night before with the actor Benicio Del Toro.
Her “peak moment” so far this year, she said, was exchanging a few words with the actress Anna Karina, who co-starred with Jean-Paul Belmondo in “Pierrot le Fou,” the Jean-Luc Godard film. Ms. Karina was in Cannes because she is on the official poster for the festival this year, kissing Mr. Belmondo in a scene from the 1965 movie.
Ms. Santoro says she customizes her eye-catching stepladder every year. It was covered with photos of Ms. Karina and Mr. Belmondo and adorned with a pair of boxing gloves, in tribute to the actor’s youth as a boxer.
As I moved on to speak to other red-carpet veterans, I was suddenly caught in a crush of teens, tweens and 20-somethings, screeching at a deafening pitch and holding smartphones aloft to photograph someone I couldn’t see.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“It’s Vargasss!” a young woman next to me replied.
But who’s Vargasss?
“This guy who posts funny videos on Snapchat!” she said.
Vargasss, it turns out, is the Snapchat and Instagram handle of Mansour Sirat, 21, a French social media star based in the western suburbs of Paris. He started posting less than two years ago and now has more than one million Snapchat views a day, mostly from users in France.
Some of his posts are bewildering, but some are genuinely funny, like one in which he poses in front of a camel and pulls faces that vaguely resemble the animal’s. (The post has been viewed nearly one million times on Instagram.) As an influencer and a maker of videos, he was invited to Cannes by the arm of the French Culture Ministry that promotes film.
I looked around and caught the gaze of two other bewildered women of my generation. One had just lost her daughter to the human wave and was waiting for the frenzy to subside so that she could retrieve her.
The modern-day equivalents of Mr. Belmondo and Ms. Karina, it seemed, were not trophied actors, but amateur short-form video makers.
I was determined to find out more about this phenomenon from the experts — meaning young people. The next day, I sat next to two 25-year-old women at a movie screening, but they said they were too old to offer useful analysis. One dialed up a friend, whose 16-year-old brother, Pierre Bredin, could perhaps shed some light.
“Vargasss spends all day on his smartphone: He films everything he sees and does, and it’s often funny,” Mr. Bredin said by phone from Paris. “The likes of Vargasss are young people like us, who we can talk to freely and easily, and who look just like us,” he added. “They’re celebrities that we can actually see in the flesh,” often out filming in the street or in public places.
On the other hand, he said, there is a “rarity and a prestige” attached to actors like Daniel Craig or Tom Cruise that make it “almost impossible to see them.”
Later that day on the red carpet, standing behind the barricades, were three young women from Marseille in torn skinny jeans: Saphia Boukhechba, 16; Ilhem Mechentel, 19; and Ines Azibi, 19. They had traveled to Cannes for the day, not knowing whom they might see. They weren’t all clued up like the stepladder crowd.
Ms. Boukhechba said she’d seen on Snapchat that Vargasss had been on the red carpet the day before: “He filmed his fans, all the young people around him who were screaming his name out.”
“There’s a buzz around him for now, and it’ll probably go on for another four or five years,” Ms. Boukhechba said. “But in 10 years, he won’t be famous like real stars, actors or singers. Generations change, and the generation born in 2000 are more attracted to rappers, influencers, Snapchat, Instagram and all of that, than to actors.”
I asked her how she felt about movie stars like the French actress Catherine Deneuve.
“Who’s that? I don’t know that name,” she replied.
And what about Jean-Paul Belmondo? I asked Ms. Mechentel.
“Jean-Paul who?” she asked, looking baffled.
Hadn’t she seen his movies on television?
“We don’t watch TV,” she said. “We just watch the phone.”
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