Top Spots in Cannes for Film Lovers
Every year during awards season, the Hollywood greats don their best frocks and spiffiest suits and hit the red carpet in the hopes of picking up a Screen Actors Guild award, a BAFTA, or a coveted Oscar.
This may give you a bit of inspiration – why not go looking for a bit of glitz, glamour and art yourself on your next holiday? If this lights your flashbulb, allow me to suggest one destination with the perfect mix of new-school cool and vintage opulence: Cannes. Draped seductively across the French Riviera, this picturesque city hosts the world’s most prestigious film festival every May.
Location, Location, Location
Aside from the Cannes Film Festival, there’s plenty of year-round attractions in Cannes to interest the film buff. Cannes is a beautiful city in itself, and has been the backdrop for a surprising number of movies…
- From the site of the car chase in Goldeneye…
- …to L’Hotel Barrière Le Majestic in Femme Fatale and Ronin…
- …to perhaps the most famous setting of this Belle Époque treasure trove, the International Carlton Hotel from Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Rumour has it that Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier on set at the Carlton Hotel in 1955. Why not soak up a bit of that aristocratic heritage over a Kir Royale cocktail?
Homage to Tarantino
There’s quite a lot of Quentin Tarantino-themed street art here. Keep an eye out for murals of mysterious briefcases and iconic headshots of Jackson and Travolta, as well as Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega mid-twist.
On Boulevard Alexandre III near Boulevard de la Croisette, there is a bridge , and if you walk underneath it you will see art from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) on one side and Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993). They were both consecutive winners of the Palme d’Or award at Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes’ Walk of Fame
Just like on Hollywood and Vine, the greats of the film world have been memorialized on the streets of this storied city. Stretching from the Tourism Office around to La Croisette, you’ll see many more obscure names on Cannes’ ‘Star-Studded Walk of Fame’ than on the Hollywood version.
Filmmaking luminaries from David Lynch to Akira Kurosawa have left a handprint in wet concrete, and Nicholson, Stallone, Streep and Foster are here as well. It’s a proper test for a cinephile to see how many they recognize.
This walk definitely draws a crowd – so if you’re here for the festival, take advantage of the clement morning temperatures. If you get here early enough, you can have the place to yourself.
The Festival Itself
The Cannes Film Festival is definitely a bucket list activity. For two weeks in summer, the streets are thronged with everyone from A-listers to behind-the-scenes power players. Every hotel turns its conference suites into a cinema, and the industry’s current darlings get screen time. Check out our guide to the Cannes Film Festival (and how to get free tickets!), and make sure to plan months ahead. The rest of the year you can still take a selfie on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals .
As a center of French cinema, the city undertook a project to highlight the significant figures and moments in the French and world cinema. In various sections of the city, you can see the other painted-walls with movie portrayals. These walls honor the long and fruitful love story between Cannes and the cinema based on film-related subjects.
Go on a treasure hunt looking for Cannes’ famous wall murals, most featuring some aspect of the film industry…
The best mural walls:
A 20-minute walk will take you past many of the murals:
You owe it to yourself to check out one of the city’s remaining independent cinemas while you’re here; they show a plethora of intriguing spectacles during festival season, as well as throughout the rest of the year. Who knows, you may end up sitting in the same seat that one of your favorite actors sat in during the festival!
An important tip for English speakers: Make sure that the film says “VO”, which means version originale or original version (so, in most cases, English). Depending on what languages you speak (or don’t speak), this is something to pay attention to, as it’s quite common to dub non-French language films into French.
The Best Independent Cinemas in Cannes
Les Arcades (for those who speak English)
For the only surviving cinema not to screen blockbusters or dub films into French, check out Les Arcades , which is a real, old-timers cinema. It’s the only cinema left in Cannes that doesn’t screen blockbusters and one of the only ones that screens in VO – version originale or original version (so, in most cases, English).
Just don’t bring in any popcorn – they’re rather against anything that rustles, crunches and ruins the old-school ambiance. With such a small, well-worn theater, you might wonder why you paid so much to spend a couple of hours in a place like this… but c’mon, isn’t this the beauty of independent and historic cinemas?
Visit the Les Arcades website here.
Olympia (for those who speak French)
The Olympia is another vintage cinema in Cannes, but a little more comfortable and ‘conforming’ than the Les Arcades. The Olympia might also benefit from a facelift, but the seats have good legroom and they show all the big Hollywood blockbusters (but mostly dubbed into French).
Normally, indie cinemas stick only to indie films, so for me, it’s actually interesting to see an indie cinema mix in some popular fare. And why not, eh?
Visit the Olympia website here.
Studio 13/MJC Picaud
Technically, MJC / Studio 13 isn’t a proper cinema but more of a multi-arts center. The films that Studio 13 screen seem to be a mix of what the Olympia and Les Arcades screen. Looking back on their programming, they screen a decent amount of World Cinema and short films. The cinema is a bit more ad-hoc as it’s more of an arts center, so plan your visits accordingly.