Every May, the population of Cannes triples from 70,000 to 200,000. The pavements become crowded beyond reason with producers, directors, agents, journalists – and airheads craning for a glimpse of Ryan Gosling.
Is the festival some elite club that only Ferrari owners can join?
Who better to fill us in than the authority on all things Cannes, Michael Leahy from Cannes or Bust.
Can I attend screenings at Cannes?
So here’s the inside deal: there are ways, but it’s not quite the glamorous process you think it is. The Cannes festival is basically two things: a promotional showcase and a trade market. If you are neither press nor industry, nothing is done to make life easy for you. You should know that even within the accredited press, for example, there is a strict pecking order.
What if I want to attend a screening as a mere cinéphile?
Well, your best chance is to catch movies outside the Palais, usually at smaller venues. The city of Cannes insisted that the festival make some tickets available, and set up the Cannes Cinema body to handle this. So it is possible to obtain tickets. But the Cannes Cinema site specifies that they’re primarily for people with some sort of non-professional connection to movies, such as film clubs, teachers, etc. However, I do know there is some leeway on this.
Pardon moi? What if I can’t face the prospect of trying to justify my existence?
Well, you could always try your luck picking up tickets early in the morning at the Cannes Cinema booth (in the Pantiero zone) or at the Raimu, Licorne and Studio 13 cinemas. These screenings are not in the main theatre, but do include films from the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Official Selection, Un certain regard and Cannes Classics selection. You can’t really choose what to see, as these are basically leftover seats. Tickets for the Semaine international de la critique can (if you’re lucky and early enough) be picked up at the Espace Miramar (35, rue Pasteur) or with a Cannes Cinéphile badge. To quote the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.
Ugh, my brain hurts just thinking about it…
Confusing? Just wait until you hit town! Getting to see anything involves a lot of walking from one source of information to another, getting up early and queuing. But you are at Cannes, and might just spot someone half-famous in the street.
So, about these leftover seats?
When the Cannes protocol services have given out seats for screenings, they occasionally find themselves with leftovers. From about 2pm, people start queuing outside the Palais to try and pick up a seat. Professionals are often surprisingly generous too, passing out tickets they don’t want. But, again, it’s the luck of the draw. A variation of this that works is to walk around with a sign saying, “Looking for a seat to [favourite film]”. I’ve known people pick up tickets that way too. If you follow my Twitter account, you will occasionally see offers from people offloading extra tickets.
Any other insider tips?
Another opportunity is to check the Cinéma de la Plage. I’ve seen quite a few films here, and I think it’s a fun event. A giant screen is placed on the beach close to the Palais and shows a broad selection of art-house films and old classics. Tickets are available from the Cannes Tourist Office on the day. Lastly, look out for Cannes in a Van, a British outfit that sometimes screens short films, trailers and music videos from a van that is parked on the Croisette.
For more insider tips, check out Cannes or Bust.