Cannes Film Festival Insider’s Guide

For sheer buzz, glamour, and culture, nothing matches the 12 days of the Cannes Film Festival, which this year begins on May 13. The lineup was announced in Paris after presstime, but word is that 2009 is likely to be a vintage year on La Croisette, the city’s seaside promenade. Among the probable highlights: Los abrazos rotos, Pedro Almódovar’s dark drama with Penélope Cruz, and Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s orthographically challenged World War II epic. The festival can be confusing—it’s not just crashing the Vanity Fair party that requires a plan. Most screenings are open only to those with festival accreditation, so even trying to see a film takes planning, and a knowing crib sheet is an absolute necessity.

Cheap Chic Eats

In the Old Town near the Marché Forville farmers’ market, the rustic family-run Aux Bons Enfants serves authentic Provençal dishes like tarragon-baked rabbit. A tough place to get a table and among the cheapest, it has no phone and is cash only. Go around six to secure a seat. 1 Dinner, $30. At 80 Rue Meynadier.

Room to Book

Not all the stars live large in private villas or at the Hôtel du Cap in Antibes. Festival jury members and Jack Nicholson are big fans of the 305-room Majestic Barrière, since it’s just across from the screening hub, Le Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. A major renovation has refreshed the burnished-gold Art Deco columns of the lobby and turned the once shabby rooms in the main seafront building into elegant suites, each with a Parisian townhouse feel. Construction is ongoing, however, and the pool will be closed through 2009. So it may be best to book now for 2010, when a smart new wing with more than 40 suites, one of which has a private pool and solarium, will be open. From $400 to $4,600. At 10 La Croisette; 33-4/92-98-77-00;

Cafe Culture

Bustling Rue d’Antibes is only three blocks off La Croisette, but here one finds real people carrying real baguettes (the bread, not the bag). Filmed-out, deal-deadened festivalgoers head to the très parisien Café Lenôtre—an elegant antidote to all that oceanside flimflam—to detox over espressos and a meltingly delicate mille-feuille courtesy of Paris-based master pâtissier Guy Krenzer. At 63 Rue d’Antibes; 33-4/97-06-67-67.

Cult Shop

Both La Croisette and Rue d’Antibes are lined with the same international brands one finds in places from St. Barths to Singapore (Bulgari, Hermès, Dior, Missoni). For something unique, festival frequenters stop by the film bookshop Ciné-Folie, where posters from most of the event’s past 61 years are sold alongside books and magazines (all in French), plus stills from just about any French movie you’ve ever heard of. 1 At 14 Rue des Frères Pradignac; 33-4/93-39-22-99.

The Night Cap

Longtime late-night watering hole Le Petit Majestic is now a bit passé. Insiders—especially Brits like producer Christine Langan (The Queen, The Duchess, Jane Campion’s upcoming Bright Star)—have adopted the secluded garden terrace of Le Grand Hotel as the new choice spot for a glass of regulation rosé. (It’s the who-you-know scene, not the wine, that counts here, though.) At 45 La Croisette; 33-4/93-38-15-45;

Lunch Date

The new 3.14 Hotel certainly is high concept—each of its five floors represents a different continent (even the room fragrances vary)—but serious festival players consider the place to be a bit arriviste. The hotel’s beach-club offshoot, 3.14 La Plage, however, has taken off as an alternative to established seaside venues like the Carlton Beach Restaurant at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes, a favorite for producers’ lunches. Last year 3.14 La Plage hosted the party for the opening film, Blindness—an interesting choice, given the boîte’s glaring turquoise color scheme. Like its Croisette neighbors, the bar-restaurant is open to all for lunch; evenings are reserved for private functions. Lunch, $60. At 5 Rue François Einesy; 33-4/92-99-72-00;

Not Just Members Only

A few years back, some of London’s top private clubs began setting up festival outposts, offering temporary memberships to tap into the demand for relaxed but exclusive dealmaking venues. Pick of the crop for its laid-back, insidery vibe is the Century Cannes from the Century Club, which turns Vegaluna Plage (just across La Croisette from the Carlton) into a Bali-chic bar, restaurant, and meeting space for the duration of the festival. At 61 La Croisette;

Something Fishy

In happier times (i.e., last year) Madonna and Guy Ritchie were spotted dining at Felix, a Croisette mainstay that serves pricey but classic Côte d’Azur seafood like sole meunière—which is what Madge supposedly ordered, along with the asparagus spears—to a crowd of hardened festival regulars. This is a great place for a networking dinner, less so for a romantic tête-à-tête, as the former couple discovered. Dinner, $90. At 63 La Croisette; 33-4/93-94-00-61;

Classic Cocktails

Of the handful of heavyweight hotels on La Croisette, the Art Deco–style Hotel Martinez is farthest from the scene at Le Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. Maybe that’s why it has the best bar, L’Amiral, where Gérard Depardieu is a regular. The barmen fix terrific Manhattans—a good match for the live jazz. At 73 La Croisette; 33-4/92-98-73-00;

A Table Away From It All

Brad and Angelina enjoyed an intimate lunch at Chez Tétou during the 2008 festival, but that’s no reason to shun this beach restaurant, which lies four miles east of Cannes on the way to Antibes, in the sleepy resort of Golfe Juan. Those keen to flee the Cannes crush come here for the rich, creamy bouillabaisse, its flavor varying subtly according to the day’s chef-selected, hook-caught fish. 1 Bouillabaisse, $125. At Av. des Frères Roustan, Golfe Juan; 33-4/93-63-71-16.

For Rent: Paging Harvey Weinstein…

The House at Cannes appears to be just another of the Côte d’Azur’s classic Belle Epoque villas, all bubblegum pink with wedding-cake cornices, sweeping staircases, and elaborate verandas looking out on the Med. On Avenue Montrose, once the city’s social hub, it’s surrounded by similar confections, all a quick walk to the beach and La Croisette. The house doesn’t seem like much of a value proposition, either, with its weekly high-season price tag starting at $19,000. Still, with the Cannes Film Festival opening later this month and industry players like producer Harvey Weinstein coming into town, we couldn’t resist. And it’s a good thing, too, because it turns out our first impressions were dead wrong. Sleeping ten people in five bedrooms, the villa would cost a couple $540 a night—less than a double at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes or Hôtel du Cap in nearby Antibes. More surprising is the design, with a pool tiled in a custom black-and-white mosaic by the London design firm Eley Kishimoto and steel-and-bent plywood chaises overlooking a yard and garden with cacti and palms. The three-story property is done in yellow, fuchsia, red, and white, a bold palette that manages to serve as a pared-back canvas for a collection of midcentury modern antiques: a Serge Mouille lamp, a Richard Schultz 1966 Petal table, an Alvar Aalto chair. Contemporary accents, meanwhile, undercut any one-period look: an eight-foot-long glass-sided bathtub by Belfast design outfit usTogether; a wooden armchair in an Eley Kishimoto print called Shapes; a Boffi pipe shower in a stark, blue-tiled bathroom. This aesthetic is the work of British designer Jason Maclean, whose first big success was the House at Hautefage, open since 2005 in France’s rural Lot-et-Garonne; this persuaded him and his business partner, Amanda Gillis, to move ahead on similar ones. “We’re not trying to be cute,” says Maclean, “and certainly not trying to be French. We just want to stand alone and create a place to spend time with friends.” Although only months old, the villa is already booked for most, if not all, of the festival. So get in early for the rest of summer: The House at Cannes is far more than the Belle Epoque crumpet that first meets the eye. thehouseat.comSophy Roberts