Once destined as a small fishing port off the glimmering waters of the French Riviera, Cannes is today the destination for the world’s most prestigious film festival and celebrity haunt.
Think George Clooney gallivanting the coastal strip with his Oceans buddies Brad Pitt and Matt Damon in tuxedos and you’re scratching the surface.
Throw in Leo DiCaprio catching rays on his yacht alongside a posse of beautiful women, Jake Gyllenhaal wrapped around Zoe Kravitz at an exclusive soiree, Tom Hardy rocking his beard game alongside Robert De Niro or Ryan Gosling and you’d be closer to the point.
Getting there as a civilian to partake in all this swashbuckling? That’s another game in itself. The Cannes Film Festival is only intended for those who work exclusively in the film industry and public access to the event is extremely limited.
That’s not to say the legions of tourists haven’t tried. Dock your (rented) luxury super yacht as we run you through exploring the Cannes Film Festival in civilian style.
History Of Show Business
There’s essentially two sides to the Cannes Film Festival. One involves immersing yourself in the best of international cinema, and the other involves beach parties and gala soirees tacked onto the back of ‘spot the celeb in the room’.
Officially beginning in 1946 in the seaside city of France, the event has grown to play host to a crème de la crème of A-list celebrities from around the world over the years.
As Cannes is the world’s most famous film festival and a significant film market itself, its concentration of star power rivals some of the world’s biggest, such as their main festival competitor in Venice.
Celebrities will usually drop by town just to promote a film, talk business with other film heads, be present as the star of a movie which is screening in the official program, be on the panel as a festival judge, or quite simply just leech some limelight.
What makes Cannes an important festival however is the way the films are judged. Back in 1947 there were films from sixteen different countries which were screened. With a jury made up of one representative per country, the move was a significant period in the entertainment industry as it introduced the concept of equality. That same principle still applies to today’s films at the event which are scrutinised by an international jury.
What To See
Heaps of bloody stars. If you are not a producer, actor, production crew or have a press pass or festival badge, life will be slightly harder, but you can still explore the Cannes atmosphere at the film festival.
La Croisette is the best seafront promenade on the famed Côte d’Azur strip to take in the bustle of it all.
The area involves an eclectic mix of characters during festival time – excited tourists, stunning women in haute couture, men in cocktail dresses glad handling and pea-cocking, endlessly flowing champagne and private parties on super yachts just to name a few.
If you’re in it for a game of star-spotting, be sure to hit up the Carlton Intercontinental, Hotel Martinez or Majestic Barrière. Security is intense for these hotels, but you can huddle up a seat against other spectators and paparazzi crowding the roads out front for free.
Wanting to take it to the next level and actually enter one of these hotels?
You’d better be packing a black credit card with a hefty limit, as it’s not cheap. Other star-spotting vantage points can be found along the beach restaurants with marquees setup for private events.
Those not into the star gazing scene can take a stroll down the French Riviera to explore immortalised handprints of Monaco’s Champions Promenade which pays tribute to some of the world’s best footballers.
“It’s all about the star gazing here and trying to guess which private yacht party is Leo’s or Stallone’s.”
There’s also the Cinéma de la Plage (open-air cinema) which runs every evening of the festival and is free for the public to attend.
Screenings kick off at around 9:30pm nightly and can be found at Plage Macé opposite the Majestic Hotel.
Though it’s advised that you arrive early to claim a deckchair as places fill up quick. The 2015 schedule of films can be found here.
Vieux Port, roughly translated as old port, is another spot of free entertainment with access to the port housing some of the city’s most expensive super yachts. Again, it’s all about the star gazing here and trying to guess which private yacht party is Leo’s or Stallone’s.
Besides witnessing the cavalcade of celebrities at the Crosiette, patrons can also explore other aspects of the festival’s highlights which are a lot less frantic and expensive.
Le Suquet is Cannes’ old town and it rises every morning without a spot of bother that there’s a huge international festival happening just minutes away.
Here you can head back to the roots and explore the heritage brick-vaulted entrances and alleyways that lead to great restaurants.
If it’s the art scene you fancy, Cannes has that too. Cannes cinema murals have been around since 2002 and are basically a series of film-themed murals splashed across the city’s building walls.
There are 15 for you to track down in total and they’re huge, making for some truly great photography. Prominent figures include Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, and classic cars from famous films.
Why It Belongs On Your Bucket List
First-timers to the Cannes Film Festival may find the whole experience overwhelming with road blocks, endless security and paparazzi occupying the streets around the Croisette.
That is however the beauty of the event. The hustle and bustle of an entire city that can only be amped by the influx of star power is seldom seen anywhere else in the world.
Spectators are encouraged to bring their own seats and ladders in order to perch up high to witness their favourite actor or actress for this once in a lifetime experience of extravagant proportions.
If it’s film, fashion and an endless barrage of flashes you’re after, the streets of Cannes during festival time is definitely your next stop.