Festival de Cannes is considered to be the third largest media event in the world, after the Olympics and the World Cup. Approximately four thousand journalists travel to Cannes for eleven days of films, parties and contact building. Then there are the thousands of spectators who gather daily, sometimes camping out overnight for the best spots, to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars on the red carpet that leads to the Grand Théâtre Lumière. The excitement is palpable among the crowds that erupt with screams and flashbulbs as celebrities mount the stairs. Professional photographers and camera crews film nonstop, gleeful when they catch a momentous event, such as when Sophie Marceau, while walking the red carpet, lost a strap off her shoulder, exposing a breast before the screening of Where Truth Lies.
In addition to fantasizing about celebrities from the sidelines, the general public can also indulge their film fetishes by seeing some films. The Quinzaine des Réalisateur (Directors’ Fortnight) is actually a parallel festival which shows feature and short films from all over the world. Once the festival begins, tickets are available from the Quinzaine des Réalisateur festival offices at La Malmaison. Films are screened in several theaters in their original language with French subtitles, except at the Théâtre Noga-Croisette where they include English subtitles. Often the director, producers and actors are introduced at the screening.
The Semaine Internationale de la Critique (International Critics’ Week), which shows only the first or second film by a director, also sells tickets to the public at Espace Miramar. All films are shown in their original language with French subtitles, and most are subtitled in English (as indicated on the schedule). Ticket holders are, however, admitted subject to seat availability.
Perhaps the best Festival de Cannes experience without accreditation is to catch an evening film on the beach at the Cinéma de la Plage. Free tickets for nightly films can be picked up at the Tourist Office located on the main street in Cannes called Croisette. Music is usually featured first, then you can sit back in a comfortable canvas beach chair complete with fuzzy blanket and watch a film against the backdrop of a starry sky and the Mediterranean Sea. The films are usually old releases with programs following a certain theme. This year the program included a combination of popular films, documentaries and musicals and featured Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).
So if you want to experience Festival de Cannes, book a hotel early, and in addition to catching some films and watching other spectators or the rich and famous, you can also enjoy exploring the French Riviera.