By Anne Thompson
Updated May 24, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

The liveliest screening at the Cannes film festival last week involved a big-name studio chief, a high-profile director, and a host of hot young stars. What it didn’t involve was a movie. New York Knicks superfan Spike Lee, who was on the Riviera to promote his phone-sex comedy, Girl 6, arranged with a Cote d’Azur satellite company to tap into the broadcast signal for last weekend’s play-off games between the Knicks and their arch-rivals, the Chicago Bulls.

On May 11, Lee, Twentieth Century Fox (his studio), and a handful of basketball lovers coughed up $7,500 to have game 3 of the series fed live into the TV monitors in the American Pavilion, a press area, where 200 raucous NBA fans watched the Knicks pull out a 102-99 overtime win. The next day, Lee coaxed fellow Knicks booster and Miramax cochairman Harvey Weinstein to split the $10,000 cost of showing Sunday’s game. By then, word had spread of Lee’s hoop dreams, and the game 4 telecast attracted a sizable celebrity contingent, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Lili Taylor, and Jared Harris.

At one point, when New York was up by nine late in the game, Weinstein turned to taunt Bulls fan Roger Ebert ”on a losing evening.” ”It’s just a game,” Ebert lobbed back. ”It’s not like it’s a movie.” The Bulls eventually recovered to win 94-91, leaving Ebert to wonder, How do you say thumbs-up in French?