There is no question that the Cannes Film Festival is the most glamorous of all film festivals. Coming hot on the heels of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala, for many stars Cannes is all about making an impact on the red carpet. And this most recent edition, the 68th Cannes Film Festival, was no different. While most of us may not remember which films entered the competition, we will recall which dresses made it to the red carpet.

Which often means men end up taking a supporting role. Because really, how many different ways can a man wear a suit or a tuxedo?

At the Mad Max: Fury Road out-of-competition screening, Charlize Theron hit all the right style notes in her eye-catching bright-yellow strapless gown teamed with a large pear-shaped diamond ring on her finger. She showed that off along with her a boyfriend (or is it fiancée?) Sean Penn. In a buttoned-down black shirt, with a black suit and black shoes, Penn’s monotone ensemble was the perfect example of how to casual-smart on the red carpet. Yet, if you read any of the fashion blogs, entertainment dailies or even the newspapers, they only talk about Theron’s Dior Couture gown. There is not even a mention of what/who Penn was wearing. His function, despite displaying considerable sartorial savoir-faire, was reduced to that of arm candy.

And Penn is not the only man at Cannes who understood the importance of styling a suit. At the photocall for Mad Max: Fury Road, Tom Hardy wore a navy blue Alexander McQueen suit, with a shirt that was worn open, and a black belt. Accessorized with a necklace, aviators, and a shaggy beard like Penn, Hardy went for the dapper-yet-not-too-dressed-up look. This proved to be a recurring theme at the festival. Maybe the location of the film festival, the French Riviera lends itself to easier chic dress code.

It was no surprise that Colin Farrell choose Dolce and Gabbana, as he is the face of their fragrance and has a contract with the design house. The way he styled his suit at the photocall for his film, The Lobster, was a masterclass in style. His choice of a light-grey suit with a crisp white shirt, dark pocket square and shoes ticked all the right boxes for smart casual day-time dressing. Farrell may claim to be someone who does not care about fashion. But his was clearly a well-thought-out look. Perhaps his stylist or the designers deserves the credit.

Matthew McConaughey’s Dolce and Gabbana slate-blue three-piece suit, worn with a half-open shirt and neck scarf, was all about relaxed ease yet still suave. It was a look that matched his rugged good looks with elan. His slightly unkempt beard, though, lent a slight feel of untidiness to this otherwise effortless and elegant take on smart casual. The three-piece was also the actor’s choice for his formal red carpet appearance for The Sea of Trees premiere. His choice of a shiny deep Bordeaux red jacket over a classic tuxedo was surprising, striking and, for some incomprehensible reason, remains ignored in the fashion press. McConaughey was thoroughly eclipsed by co-star Naomi Watts, whose tiered grey backless Armani Prive dress was clearly the star of the night.

Overall, it was a Cannes where men seem to have decided not to push the envelope at all. They seem happy with their support role. It does seem as though the men make more of an effort at the other big glamour cinema event of the year, the Academy Awards, more fondly known as the Oscars. Perhaps this is because we only notice the men at Cannes when they get something wrong.

Who can forget that beautiful Tom Ford black satin-trimmed tuxedo that Leonardo DiCaprio wore two years ago when The Great Gatsby opened the 66th Cannes Film Festival. Though the reason we probably remember is because next to him was Amitabh Bachchan in his sequin tuxedo jacket teamed with a polka-dot bowtie.

Bachchan made sure he stood out thanks to his garish choice of outfit. His blunder ensured that DiCaprio walked away with the fashion accolades that night.

The fact is that Cannes is all about the frocks, the lipstick and the baubles. Which is why brands such as L’Oreal and Chopard a keen to play important roles at Cannes.

That means men, unless they go over the top, do not stand a chance. But then, it maybe better that the boys play the supporting role on the Cannes red carpet. After all how can the real stars shine without a little assistance?

Sujata Assomull has been a fashion commentator for two decades now. The former editor of Harper’s Bazaar in India is a well-known columnist on style, design and fashion. Follow her on Twitter @stylesuj and on Instagram @sujstyle

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