On Location in Cannes

4 minute read
Anwer Bati

It’s a clue to how Cannes sees itself that it’s twinned with Beverly Hills. But every May, Beverly Hills decamps to Cannes as Hollywood’s movers and shakers, and their peers from around the world, descend on the town to showcase their latest movies at the annual film festival (www.festival-cannes.fr). The population of France’s glitziest resort town trebles as visitors pack the local hotels, restaurants and bars to sample the buzz, maybe do some stargazing and even catch a movie or two. This year’s festival, the 65th, runs from May 16 to 27. Here are the places to check out.

1 Boulevard de la Croisette
The main artery of Cannes, where most of the action takes place, the Croisette runs along the seafront, with fashionable beach restaurants, big-ticket stores and the town’s legendary palace-hotels. At its western end is the bunker-like Palais des Festivals, built in 1982, with permanently red-carpeted steps, auditoriums and subterranean exhibition spaces. It is the heart of both the festival and attendant film market. In the middle is La Malmaison, a 19th century villa that is the base for Directors’ Fortnight, the independent movie showcase held during the festival. Next door is the Grand Hotel (www.grand-hotel-cannes.com). Refurbished in 2006, it has become Cannes’ best boutique hotel (guests include Tilda Swinton, Marion Cotillard and Jean-Paul Belmondo). Its Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Park 45 — set in the only garden on the Croisette — is one of the places the stars sneak to for a quiet lunch.

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2 The palace-hotels
The three great hotels of Cannes are the focus of social life during the festival. Nearest to the Palais des Festivals is the 1926 Majestic Barrière (www.lucienbarriere.com), the glitziest address in town. It boasts three restaurants, a spa, a screening room and two penthouse suites (both costing upwards of $39,000 a night and favored by the likes of Madonna and Elton John). Proximity to the Palais means that this is the prime spot for film folk to gather pre- or postscreening.

The InterContinental Carlton (www.intercontinental.com/cannes), which first welcomed guests in 1911, embodies Belle Epoque style and has always been a hub of the festival, drawing guests such as Clint Eastwood, George Clooney and Roman Polanski. The Carlton’s terrace is the place to people watch, as is its beach restaurant. During the festival, some 10,000 bottles of Champagne get guzzled at the hotel.

The biggest luxury hotel in town is the Martinez (www.hotel-martinez.com), an Art Deco gem that opened in 1929. It’s also the farthest from the Palais, but the most private as a result — appealing to guests such as Woody Allen, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Aniston. It also houses the best restaurant in Cannes, the two-Michelin-starred La Palme d’Or, helmed by chef Christian Sinicropi. The restaurant is traditionally the location of the dinner held on the eve of the festival for the jury, this year chaired by Italian director Nanni Moretti.

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3 St.-Honorat island
St.-Honorat, a 20-minute ferry ride from Cannes, is a haven of peace away from the festival. The local Cistercian monks produce some of the best wine in the area, and there is also the bonus of La Tonnelle (www.tonnelle-abbayedelerins.com), a fine restaurant, where you need not wear a hair shirt and can eat either luxuriously or simply, indoors or out. During the festival, dozens of yachts moor offshore, and their passengers — with plenty of movie stars among them — make the pilgrimage to La Tonnelle for lunch.

4 Astoux et Brun
This local institution (www.astouxbrun.com) has been going since 1953 and is unknown to most out-of-towners. Not smart, not chic (though diners have included Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve) but packed and easily the best place for seafood in Cannes. You can’t book and may have to queue, but it’s worth the wait. Try the vast seafood platter or the infallibly delicious oysters.

5 Bâoli
Located in the marina at the eastern end of the Croisette, Bâoli (www.lebaoli.com) is the biggest and smartest nightspot in Cannes, and the scene of the best after-premiere parties. But it’s also a place where people go to eat some of the best Asian food in town, and it’s often packed with over 700 people dining alfresco. Dancing starts around midnight and carries on until 5 a.m. Service, for such a large and stylish venue, is gratifyingly friendly and attentive.

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