Cannes Survival Guide

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Headed to the festival? Here are some insider tips from a grizzled veteran.

PACKING

Bring an Umbrella
Yes, you are on the Cote d'Azur, famed land of sun and sand. But Cannes weather can turn on a dime and leave your Armani suit soaked and your Dior dress dripping. Forgot to prepare for rain? You can find everything you need at the Monoprix or any of the pharmacies along the rue d'Antibes.

Drugs, Drugs and More Drugs
Speaking of pharmaceuticals, stock up before you come. Not the hard stuff (if that's your fancy, you can get your fill on the street). I'm talking sleeping pills for the plane and Day 1 jet lag, cold meds and stomach pills to fight the midmarket bug and the strongest headache medicine approved by the FDA to turn down the volume on those morning hangovers.

GETTING AROUND

It's Boots or Bikes
Forget your Manhattan cab call -- Cannes is a walking town. Or, if you really need to make time, get a two-wheeler. A bike or scooter is the fastest way to get from screening to meeting and back in time for that all-important three-hour French lunch. 

Avoid the Croisette
If you've got time to kill or want to catch that hard-to-reach financier on his way to a screening, feel free to stroll down Cannes' main drag. But if you're in a hurry, dodge the crowds and head up the back alleys. On the festival's first weekend, hordes of civilians -- known as ordinary French film fans -- make the Croisette a no-go zone if you can avoid it (but you probably can't).

NETWORKING

Remember, You're on Cannes Time
An 8 a.m. meeting with your French buyer? Are you insane? He'll have barely made it out of Le Loft by then. You're on a European clock now, buddy, so don't expect any lunch to last less than an hour, don't expect to eat dinner before 10 p.m., and if you didn't sleep before you came, I'm afraid you're out of luck.

Stay Put or Keep Moving
There are two ways to maximize your networking in Cannes: Hit every premiere/party/cocktail and pavilion in a 10-day meet-and-greet marathon, or park at a table in the Majestic Bar and grab 'em when they come by.

FASHION

Dress Down by Day, Spice Up at Night
If Cannes fashion were cable TV, it would be Jersey Shore by day, Sex and the City by night. Remember to pack two outfits: your work uniform -- sneakers and the kind of holiday-casual wear that says, "I'm too successful to care" -- and your party digs: Italian suit or haute couture head-turner with those blister-inducing shoes.

The Monkey Suit's a Must
Yes, Sean Penn can stroll into the Palais looking like he just rolled off a boat. But sir, you're no Sean Penn. Arrive at the red carpet without the black bow tie and tux, and you'll be met with a Gallic shrug and sent packing (black neckties don't count, either). And ladies? Watch your feet. The Palais garde doesn't care if that frock's from Sears or Versace, but a pair of casual flats at an official screening could earn you his grande non!

PARTIES

Know Your Plage
Eighty percent of Cannes fetes are on one of the dozen or so beaches chockablock along the Croisette. Finding the Plage Majestic is a snap, but can you tell the Plage Royal from the Plage du Festival? If not, take a map. It'll save you shoe leather and the shame of trying to ask for directions in third-grade French.

Beware of Boats and Buses
Picking parties at Cannes is like scouting for real estate: location, location, location. Is it on a Croisette beach or in the old city? Good -- that's easy in, easy out. On a yacht or in a villa in the hills? Careful. Harbor boat parties mean dropping your shoes at the pier and spending the night in hospital-issue slippers. A villa fete could mean an hour's ride on a "luxury coach" there and back.

EATING OUT

Lay off the Sancerre
This is one of those "do as I say, not as I do" bits of advice. But reliable sources report that reducing alcohol consumption in Cannes can sharply increase one's will to live when the alarm goes
off at 7 a.m.

The Customer Is Never Right
In a time now lost to memory, the good people of Cannes made a deal with the film industry. Once a year, we will run mad in their beautiful town and, in exchange, they will gouge us on every beer, coffee, sandwich and slice of foie gras, all the while treating us with the sort of contempt normally reserved for sex offenders. Take it in stride.

Have a Slice for Old Time's Sake
When you find yourself at La Pizza this year -- and you know you will -- take a moment and raise a glass of the red to late owner Adrian Passigli, who died earlier this year. The exception to the rule that dining in Cannes has to be slow, expensive and rude. The end of an era.          

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