Beginner’s Guide to Parties at Cannes

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and remember that it will be better than you think

MTV Cannes Party 2003
Steve Finn/Getty Images

If you’re a Cannes newcomer, there are only three things you absolutely need to know: How to converse with the natives, how to converse with festgoers and how to maneuver the parties.

The first two are easy. It’s that third item that’ll getcha every time.

With the natives, don’t forget you’re in a foreign country so “bonjour” and “merci” goes a long way. It’s as simple as that. They all speak English fluently, but they like the fact that you made an effort.
When speaking to other festgoers, you need only two questions: “When did you get in?” and “How long you here for?”

Which brings us to parties. In Cannes, it’s the films that get all the attention, but the parties are the engine that keep the whole thing moving.

Some Cannes parties are memorable. Most are like Groundhog Day, where you’re eating the same food at the same venue with the same people as last year.

Here’s the typical scenario. You’re tired, but you need to make an appearance at the party. So you fight through a crowd of non-industry lookie-loos jamming the entrance, and struggle to get in line with other guests. You finally get inside and it’s too dark, too crowded and too loud, and decide immediately to leave. So you spend 20 minutes trying to find the hosts to thank them, then another 90 minutes looking for your friends to tell them you’re leaving (because it’s too noisy for them to hear their cell phones). But then you run into someone and end up staying another 20 minutes. And if you like that person, you leave thinking you’ve had fun the whole time.

Many of the Cannes soirees center around a specific film. But there are also memorable events that don’t tie into any one pic.

In terms of philanthropy, you can’t beat the annual AmfAR benefit, which is always glitzy and raises money for a good cause.

But the event in 2000 deserves special mention. That was the year that the AmfAR gala was held at the Palm Beach Casino and featured a fashion show with Victoria’s Secret models showing off skimpy swimsuits, angels wings and, surprisingly, cellulite. In the midst of this, Mylar glitter fell on the crowd that included Elizabeth Taylor and Prince Albert of Monaco. It was a cross between a fund-raiser and Fellini’s “Satyricon.” A memorable, surreal evening.

MTV used to throw memorable bacchanals every year on the beach but in 2001, Cannes city fathers declared party noise along the beach cannot be excessive after midnight. So starting in 2002, many party-givers fled to the hills, literally. MTV hosted a few fetes at the jaw-dropping Pierre Cardin Le Palais Bulles.

The pioneer for this was the late “Moving Pictures” magazine (1989-2012), which threw a wingding at Chateau de Napoule, a fascinating castle outside Cannes.