My Experience of Cannes Film Festival

Cannes is a world away from Fife.

Whilst Fife, where I come from, can often be very cold, very grey—and quite frankly very boring—Cannes is none of that. Instead, the sky and the sea are a beautiful shade of blue, a shade of blue you’d never see in the waters of Fife (If you forget about the recent heatwave, that is). Here in Cannes you have everything you could ever want. Top films, glorious fashion, food, the beach, stars of the screen… And I was very lucky that in May 2022, I had four nights to explore the most prestigious film festival in the world.

We were staying in Cannes itself, a thirty-minute walk from all the festivities. We had a whole flat to ourselves, including a kitchen. It was near where I’d stayed back in 2019, a nice area not too far from the centre of everything. We’d considered staying in Nice and taking public transport every day, however, what with the last train being so early, we’d have missed out on all the evening things going on in the town. So Cannes it was.

On day one, my first event wasn’t until the afternoon. That meant I had the whole morning free. I’d considered doing an Airbnb experience, perhaps early morning yoga. Eventually I decided that I would go to Island St Marguerite, a short and cheap journey by ferry. It was glorious there, the view of Cannes from afar is quite something. I spent a blissful hour soaking in the sun, exploring the island.

My main reason for going to Cannes was, of course, to watch the films. Of the films and documentaries I did see, five stand out whilst the rest fade from memory. I’ll talk about each of the memorable ones.

Corsage was reasonably good, telling the story of the Empress (“Sissi”) Elisabeth of Austria. A few years ago, I fell in love with the historical figure Elisabeth—I found her life story fascinating when I visited the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Back home, I even bought a biography about her. In this film, however, they didn’t quite capture her essence, somehow making her seem a bit dull. However, there were still some good bits in the film, meaning that overall it got four stars from me. Of all the films I’ve seen about Elisabeth, none have made me quite content with how she is portrayed—the Sissi films, whilst good, just don’t reflect how she really was.

On the topic of the Sissi films, I saw a documentary about the star—famed actress Romy Schneider. Romy Femme Libre was a fascinating documentary and I learned how interestingly, her mother was an actress too, whose friendship with Hitler almost ruined her career.

I saw Mi Pais Imaginario about the revolutions in Chile, a topic I knew nothing about. As someone who studied Spanish at school—and intends to visit South America one day—this was an insightful watch. This one was well-liked by the audience there—once it was finished it received a big standing ovation from everyone.

Another film really stood out—for all the wrong reasons. Esterno Notte was a five-hour Italian film—and incredibly boring. There was no break so I had to sit through it for hours, the plot managing to succeed in being entirely unexciting. It wasted five hours of my short time in Cannes, time which would have been better spent at the beach.

Le Otto Montagne was held at the most prestigious cinema, the Grand Theatre Lumiere. It was an evening screening which meant that I had to wear a fancy dress and heels. I was incredibly lucky—and so grateful—that I was able to walk the red carpet before the film started. The film itself wasn’t as good as the red carpet.

Other films I watched were not nearly so memorable and have been very much forgotten.

Interestingly, I didn’t see any five-star films during my stay. None of the sort that you think about in great detail afterwards, no film that I’d really want to see again. They were all alright—but I’d seen better films at other film festivals. Of course, I was only there for three days and probably missed out on the best gems of the fest. But last time, in 2019, I absolutely loved La Belle Epoque by Nicolas Bedot. It was certainly, without a doubt, worth five stars and I happily watched it again when it eventually arrived in Glasgow cinemas.

I adored the beach cinema, never having seen anything like it. This time around we saw a bit of The Truman Show. I just love the whole vibe of the place and the fact that anyone, pass or not, can get in. If you arrive early, you can even sit on deckchairs.

Somehow, I ended up on the most interesting of WhatsApp groups. It was one dedicated to all the top parties going on—and there were so many of them. From lesser-known ones held at smaller venues to the big parties such as Amfar Gala Cannes, there was something for everyone. We didn’t actually go to any parties, however, we did try our luck at the Armageddon Time after party. It was being held at a hotel and we stood outside, yet from first appearance it was very clear we would not get in. We did see Anne Hathaway—much more gorgeous in real life—entering the party, glamorous gown on. Her arrival caused those around us to go crazy, so she was very quickly ushered in, away from the mob. One party that stood out to me was a party held on Idris Elba’s yacht. Obviously I didn’t go—I’d never get into that—but it was interesting to hear about. Hopefully, if I go another year to Cannes, I can sneak into a party or two—I’d love to go to one of the pyjama parties at the beach.

One of the main attractions of Cannes is celeb-spotting. As well as Anne Hathaway, who else did I see? Tom Cruise was the first actor we saw. He was being interviewed on stage. I’d never really thought much of him before meeting him, however his time on stage made him rise higher in my estimation. You could tell he really did love cinema. He explained enthusiastically about his love for the art as a boy and how now, as an adult, he made sure to learn about every aspect of the craft, from cinematography to make-up. He also made clear how he much preferred film on the big screen to streaming—so it’s just as well that when I eventually watched his latest release, I saw it at the cinema and didn’t wait till I could eventually watch it from my living room. As well as the interview, I saw him later that day. I glimpsed him on the red carpet for the premiere of Top Gun Maverick, a historical event.

We were also lucky to see Tilda Swinton, albeit briefly. She was leaving the Three Thousand Years of Longing premiere, sitting in her car, smiling and greeting fans. Interestingly enough, a week or so later, back in Scotland, I was at an event and heard how someone had seen her that day in Morningside!

In terms of food, there are a lot of expensive restaurants in Cannes, however, being on a budget as we were, half the time we ended up eating at Macdonalds. To be perfectly fair, I enjoy Macdonalds so was happy with this arrangement. It was the nicest Macdonalds I’d ever been to, with lovely outdoor seating—definitely a lot fancier than some of the Macdonalds I’ve been to in places such as Glenrothes or Galashiels. The perfect place to people-watch.

The rest of the time we ate in a range of outdoor restaurants. Once I opted for a mozzarella salad, so good it is still vivid in my memory. At another I chose instead a rather less healthy burger—fattening but oh so good! Then cocktails to go with the meals, of course, tasting so much better outside than in. (Why does food taste better outside?)

What really stood out to me in Cannes was status (and our lack of it). It was very much them—then us. The A-Listers stood on one side of the barrier, we stood on the other. The yachts and the designer clothes all signalled to things that we couldn’t dream of affording. And the parties we couldn’t get into further emphasised that we were on the outside.

Another thing that really stood out to me was the clothes. Walking around the town, it really was one endless fashion show. Ballgowns of all sizes, models bringing their own photographers to get the best shot. But even the normal people were dressed well, everyone bringing out their best clothes. After a lockdown spent in old fleeces, I’d put an effort into my Cannes wardrobe. I opted for clothes that I never normally wore in Scotland. I mean when else would I wear them, if not here?

All too soon, my time in Cannes came to a close. Of course, my excitement didn’t end there. I saw some Cannes releases when I got back to Scotland. I saw Top Gun Maverick and enjoyed it, then I absolutely adored Elvis. I’m also seeing After Sun by Scottish director Charlotte Wells when it is shown at Edinburgh Film Festival later this month. I’d also really like to see Mariopolis 2 by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, a documentary so great that it received 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Then the Palm d’Or winner I’d like to see too, Triangle of Sadness.

Cannes certainly was an experience that I’m incredibly grateful for. I do hope to go again—if only it didn’t coincide with Glasgow uni exam dates!

[Emilija Morrison | she/her | @emilijapanda]

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