Both mentally taxing and physically demanding Cannes can either make or break you. You can walk in a nobody just as writer-director Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino once did and within a few frantic days become the toast of the Croisette (the main drag of Cannes) with eager backbiting agents clamoring to represent you. If anything the charming Riviera town resembles Brigadoon in that it's highly visible every year for a mere two weeks before the French, in effect, lower the curtain by quickly removing all the movie billboards and slashing prices in the local bistros.
If you arrive any time before the official opening you must have a day pass in order to enter the carefully guarded Palais, the salmon-colored, fortress-like building which is the main theater of the festival . The Palais has its own guard detail . The guards wear blazers in order to appear more approachable. In years past the guards were notoriously brusque even to those whose only crime was wearing something that they considered too casual to the gala evening performances of the competition films.
For in Cannes a fashion victim is someone whose choice of evening wear does not measure up to French standards. Film Scouts publisher Mayra Riesman recalls attending a black-tie evening performance with a well-known German producer who was given a dressing down by a French guard and curtly denied access to the theater. The producer opened his jacket , exposing an Armani label and the guard, by now suitably impressed, motioned for him to enter. Still Film Scouts editor Kathleen Carroll recalls being grateful for the tight security during one memorable Palais screening in which a number of normally dry-eyed critics found themselves weeping because an angry group of medical students had tear gassed the building. Forced to evacuate the theater the critics found themselves under the protective wing of an elite French police force waving plastic shields. The so-called dress police have reportedly improved their manners of late but do expect wardrobe inspection if you want to have the thrill of going to the glittering star-studded night screenings.
Once again sign up for the appropriate badge before you leave the states. One Cannes veteran suggests bringing extra small photos of your self which can come in handy if your badge is mysteriously missing. You will need an extra photo if, for example, you are one of the lucky distributors who are invited to make use of the Unifrance Ambassadors Club which requires a separate admissions card.
For application information: see our pages on Attending the Festival and Attending the Market.
As a side note you can get credentials once in Cannes, but the process can take several days and be time consuming at best. So in the event you need to do this bring your business card and two passport size photos along with a great degree of patience.
Press passes are in high demand because it's the only way to avoid spending time standing on line. Even with a market pass you are required to pick up additional tickets for the competition films. Simply go to the first floor of the Palais and walk to the left where there's a ticket counter and usually a long line. Alas there is where you need to pick up either tomorrow AM tickets or same day tickets. Your market badge should get you into most other screenings including the sidebar events "Un Certain Regard" and the Directors' Fortnight.
Here's how market veteran and longtime New York exhibitor Ralph Donnelly assesses the situation. "Most market screenings are held in the Palais screening rooms ABCDEFGHI on the 3rd and 4th floor of the Palais or at the Bory on the 4th floor and the Bazin on the 3rd floor. Some rooms are quite small so arrive early when possible. Other market screenings are scattered between the Arcades, Olympia, the Ambassades and Star Theater complexes, all located on the Rue d'Antibe. Donnelly further suggests concentrating your screenings in one area for unless someone has recommended a certain film just see what's available because, as he says, "it's all 'a pig in a poke' anyway."
Once in the Palais it is a totally bewildering maze of film sellers. The festival provides an incomprehensible map so finding your way to the Hungarian film stand and other specific destinations requires the detective skills of novelist Georges Simenon's French hero - Inspector Maigret. So keep your patience and wits about you and do not fear you will find your way.
All the hotels also have suites that function as offices for companies as well during the festival. You will often find these areas easy to maneuver about as all the hotels provide an information board set up with all then proper room iand company nfomation in their lobbies. And evey hotel front desk also has the proper information in case the studio, profucer or sales organization has changed their address. Remember look around you and if you see somthing that meets your interest, introduce yourself!
Still do try to cozy up to the rich and famous. Join group discussions, anything to link up with a potential mover and shaker - someone who just might be able to jump start your filmmaking career. Sometimes all you have to do is voice an opinion. For example if you think a Polish film about a middle-aged pig farmer is a work of genius tell everyone you meet. First of all they'll be impressed that you've actually seen a Polish film and you will have the thrill of being able to shape public opinion for within hours after dropping the name of the film it will be the hottest ticket in town.
You may be able to get away with wearing just your lightweight spring clothes. But it's wise to toss a wool sweater into the suitcase and to bring a raincoat in case there's a mistral - the mysterious winds that blow in from North Africa. It has been said that the mistrals wreck havoc on the emotions and people do actually seem more testy when the winds are all astir. The aforementioned Ralph Donnelly also includes a small flashlight and the all important fashion accessory - a canvas shoulder bag, in his Cannes survivors' kit.
In fact the picture-perfect harbor of Cannes has been the scene of many a romance, some brief and some that actually lasted until the next festival.
Surprisingly many people have bonded for life in the midst of the high-pressure Americanized atmosphere.
The bar at the Grey d'Albion - More inviting than the Majestic it attracts the most savvy independent film buyers, publicists and festival directors.
Shopping - There are at least two or three people in the world who can afford to shop in Cannes. If you are lucky enough to be one of them our favorite frequent shopper has some tips. Actually she like to buy porcelain at Terre de Provence at 54, Av. G. Clemenceau. (Tel. 18.104.22.168) which she says has the best quality faience in the area. She also like Atelier Sassi-Milici at 65 Bis, Av. G. Clemenceau (Tel. 22.214.171.124) for both ceramic art and paintings.
For a discussion of eating and drinking in Cannes, see Film Scout Jim Byerley's notes on Food and Drink.
And there is always what an unnamed producer calls the serendipity of Cannes. "It is the Disneyland for the film professional. You never know who you will meet, where you will go, the only given is that you will by sheer serendipity meet interesting people. It is really the land of opportunity. And you never know just someone you run into on the Carlton Terrace socially will be able to make that deal happen for you the next day. You can go to a reception and meet 10 people that would have taken a year to meet otherwise. The accessibility is just terrific. I would say it is akin to a Star TreK episode, where you go into a nightclub at the edge of the universe, and you meet people from all over the world. From nothing you can have the most simple but brilliant evening that you will never forget. The rule is very simple - just always be open to opportunity."
The beach restaurants beginning with the Carlton's outdoor lunch spot are the "in" places to be from noon until 2 PM as long as the weather is reasonably pleasant. Except for luncheon press parties everyone tends to stick to their own circle and each country seems to have adopted a particular beach restaurant. The Canadian contingent and the press corps, for example, tend to gravitate to Long Beach. All of which brings one to the next subject.
Finding a hotel room in Cannes at festival time is an art form in itself. Does the word bribe mean anything to you? Let's put it this way a one-time reservations clerk of the tres populaire Majestic Hotel did so well he began a whole new career as an investment counselor. On the other hand Mayra took pity on a waif-like young actress a few years back and found her a bed in a well-located hostel run by American hippies. The price per night was $30 which included a brown rice breakfast. The actress, Uma Thurman, was more than happy with her accommodations. Robert Redford is fond of telling how he slept on the beach in front of the Carl ton Hotel the first time he came to Cannes.
Even so, arriving in Cannes without a hotel reservation can turn strong men to jelly. A combat-tough AP photographer, who had narrowly escaped being kidnapped with Terry Anderson in war-ravaged Beirut was reduced to a bundle of nerves after merely one day of being snubbed by Cannes hotel clerks.
Having said all this persistence sometimes pays off. Remember, too, once you have found so much as a bare cell (with one of those curtain-less showers the French are so fond of) never let it go even if it means furtively crossing the palm of a French innkeeper with the equivalent of a month's salary.
Hotel Du Cap - This is a people watchers paradise. In this deluxe 1920's period setting you fully expect F. Scott Fitzgerald to make an entrance at any second. You must go and check out the hotel's vintage grandeur but bring lots of cash for they frown on credit cards in this heavenly place. It's a thrill just to be able to ogle the Hollywood high rollers who recline by the pool or dine at the luxurious oceanfront Eden Roc waiting for lesser mortals to pay court to them.
Carlton Hotel - The best furniture is always carefully removed on the apparent assumption that the film crowd likes to tear up hotel rooms as much as Johnny Depp who was arrested this past year for wrecking his New York suite. The lobby, as a result, looks like your average Holiday Inn convention center. No longer the main hub of the festival it still draws SRO crowds especially when Sylvester Stallone, Marcello Mastroianni or some such star saunters through the hotel's revolving doors. The Carlton Terrace is still the place to be seen at around 5 PM when everyone cuts deals by scribbling the details on their paper cocktail napkins . Mayra has dubbed it the Liars Terrace but the truth is watching the action there can be more entertaining than the competition films. You can't afford to be overly sensitive, however, since people tend to greet you warmly enough only to automatically stare over your head to see if they can latch on to someone more important.
Hotel Gray D'Albion - A sleek, modern hotel with all the conviences including as gleaming ladies room for those in need of a posh retreat from all the hustle and bustle.
Hotel Martinez - Your chances of bumping into a festival fixture like the legendary Mastroianni are greatly increased here for the hotel has traditionally been the official headquarters for the Italian film contingent and other Europeans.
Hotel Majestic - Wonderfully convenient the hotel features the most visible swimming pool. Lunching at poolside is a Cannes tradition for such regulars as indy producer Ben Barenholtz who, last year, could be seen sharing a much prized poolside table with the star of his then future movie - Jennifer Jason Leigh. For years Cannes regulars used to measure the annual inflation rate by checking the price of a poolside charcoal grilled hamburger which, at last count, was well over $20. Journalists in search of screening and party invitations and interview possibilities will be even more interested in the fact that this hotel also houses the temporary office of Dennis Davidson Associates.
Hotel Splendid - If you want to woo a famous American film critic or charm the New York Film Festival's selection committee just station yourself in the cozy lobby of this prime-location family-run hotel . For you are sure to run into the creme de la creme of American movie critics not to mention the sought after members of the selection committee. Splendid habitués include Roger Ebert and Time magazine's Richard Corliss.
Hotel Sofitel - This hotel is a calorie-burning walk from the main action but the stroll through the old part of Cannes is truly refreshing. Besides, the dean of British film critics, Alexander Walker, considers it good enough to have made it his base for years.
These are just a few of the main hotels. There are many others (which are listed on our List of Hotels, with phone numbers). Some are comfortable and relatively modest like the Canberra and the Victoria but they are booked solid with repeaters - guests who return year after year to the same familiar room. Apartments are also available and sharing one is truly the best way to beat the sky-high prices even if you have to rent it for the entire month.
Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.