On the heels of the release dates for some of the year’s most anticipated films such as The Great Gatsby and Star Trek Into Darkness, the 66th annual Cannes International Film Festival (May 15 through 26) is preparing to showcase the world’s biggest celebrities, hottest nightlife and most-celebrated movies during two dazzling weeks in the French Riviera. Whether you’re looking to attend a Cannes Classics screening, sample tantalizing cocktails at Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc’s Bellini Bar or gaze at the stars – those in the sky and walking the red carpet – here’s what you need to know for an award-winning festival experience.
What to Know
Marking its 66th installment, the Cannes International Film Festival will showcase a slew of films in various categories, but the prestigious Palme d’Or award is the coveted prize chosen by this year’s jury president Steven Spielberg and jury members such as Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee and Christoph Waltz. It was recently revealed that the highly anticipated 3-D adaptation of The Great Gatsby (starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire) will serve as the festival’s opening film, and Zulu (a South African police crime thriller with Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker) will close out the events. And in celebration of its 100 years of cinema, India is set to serve as a guest country at the festival.
What to Do
You need proper accreditation for screenings of the official competition’s films, but Out of Competition movies and Cannes Classics (think Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo) will be open—and free—to the public at Cinéma de la Plage at Macé Beach each evening at 8:30 p.m. To snag a ticket, check with the Cannes Tourist Office or Cannes Cinephile office on the Pantiero. If you happen to be a Cannes resident, the winning film of the Palme d’Or award will be shown three different times the day after the festival’s closing ceremony on May 26. All you need is your ID and proof of address, and admission will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Learn about the history of the famous film festival at an exhibit presented by the Municipal Archives of Cannes. The exhibition, running from May 15 to June 30, can be found at the Contemporary Archives and will feature various original documents, movie posters and even audio excerpts tracing back to the festival’s inaugural year in 1946.
One of the integral—and most exciting—elements of the Cannes Film Festival is the glamorous nightlife brimming with dazzling movie stars. If you can score a ticket or table in time, this year marks the 20th anniversary of amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS affair, held at the ultra-chic Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 23 (Sharon Stone is hosting the evening soiree). The event’s fashion show will pay tribute to the late Elizabeth Taylor—amfAR’s co-founder—with a gold theme and special designs created by top-name designers such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Marchesa.
Don’t forget that pop-up nightclub Nikki Beach will be back again for its 11th year. The main venue (La Terrasse), the rooftop at the JW Marriott Cannes, will be in full swing—complete with its all-white décor and Piper-Heidsieck bubbly. Also check out Nikki Beach’s second location, Le Club at Les Marches inside the Palais des Festivals building. Open every night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., Les Marches will serve as the host site for DJs and fashion shows.
Where to Stay
The famed Hôtel Martinez—which dates back to 1929—recently became Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez in 2013, but the same elegance and storied past remains. The iconic hotel sits on the ritzy Boulevard de la Croisette, and is also home to a lengthy list of stars who book rooms during the festival, including longtime guests such as Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino and Jude Law. When you’re not rushing off to a screening, take some time to relax at the hotel’s private beach, Z Plage, which boasts incredible views of the Mediterranean, Estérel Mountains and Lérins Islands. But if you don’t have your room booked already, you’ll have to stick to eating at the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, La Palme d’Or—which you should do anyway.
Film buffs—and savvy travelers—will love InterContinental Carlton Cannes. With its classic Belle-Époque façade, the Carlton is one of La Croisette’s most famous hotels. It has quite the history with the stars: Grace Kelly met her future husband Prince Rainier of Monaco here during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. And suites are even named after actors ranging from Sean Connery to Cary Grant. Be sure to soak up the French Riviera sun at the private beach.
Another star-studded option is the exclusive Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, just 15 minutes from Cannes on the southern tip of the Cap d’Antibes. Known for its chic events and famous Bellini Bar (which as one can imagine, offers a bevy of champagne-centric cocktails), the hotel’s luxe guest rooms are swathed in rich floral fabrics and marble bathrooms. Here you can indulge in Eden-Roc’s outdoor infinity pool, yoga lessons, clay tennis courts and La Prairie spa treatments, too.
Where to Eat
The most recognizable restaurant during the Cannes Film Festival is undoubtedly La Palme d’Or, located inside Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez. Every year on the eve of the events, chef Christian Sinicropi hosts a special, invite-only Dinner of the Jury, in which dishes are crafted around the jury president’s career—meaning this year will include plates dedicated to Steven Spielberg’s various films. But just because you didn’t score an invite to the Dinner of the Jury doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out this impeccable restaurant. The space itself is adorned with black-and-white photographs from the festival’s previous years, as well as a picture-perfect view of the Bay of Cannes.
Le Park 45—housed in Le Grand Hotel—puts you near the action of the festival when it comes time for a meal. Chef Sébastien Broda whips up creative Mediterranean fare such as Brittany langoustines with royal kombu, seaweed tofu, cardamom crisps and ponzu juice, and the restaurant’s outdoor terrace affords views of the stunning hotel gardens and the sparkling Bay of Cannes.
Photos Courtesy of iStock-Monika Lewandowska, Cyrille Margarit, Artman Agency and Hyatt Corporation