Of all the film festivals, Cannes has a certain prestige and allure: it has a long tradition, features some of the best releases of the year, and is in a location that can't be beat. It may seem too exclusive for the average Joe, but actually there is lot's of fun to be had without selling your soul to the film industry.
It may seem obvious to see a film at a film festival, and yet, if you have ever tried to get tickets to a movie opening you’d know that it is definitively a "who you know" situation. But the festival has a "Camera d’or prize," which is awarded for "best first film" by a director. They have various films showing daily during the festival around town with tickets available for cheap or free.
Every night at the beach they show former award winners (this year Jaws, L’Homme de Rio, and The Birds are playing to name a few) called "Cinema de la Plage." Comfy chairs, popcorn, beer or wine, gorgeous view, nice breeze…
Yes, there are red carpets everywhere you look along the boardwalk during the festival … you can also see celebrities from all over the world walking those carpets. But you can also find actors, actresses, directors, producers, cinematographers etc. around town. The year I went, I saw Owen Wilson riding the carousel on the boardwalk and Hayden Christensen running along the beach.
In 2000, the festival added "Village International" meant as a focal point for world cinema. It has grown year after year and now has over 50 countries each with their own pavilion to showcase their film industry.
Even with the Boardwalk/Riviera clogged with people, there are still lots of beaches along the Cote D’Azur and for not too much money, you can access some of the private beaches belonging to hotel, from there the sky (and your cash flow) is the limit: you can get chairs, umbrellas, oysters, champagne, massages all while you lay pampered on the beach (just beware of jellyfish).
Although the French Riviera is a favourite playground still for European and U.K. holidaymakers alike, they tend to steer clear of Cannes during the festival in the interest of self-preservation. As a result, navigating the city is about as bad as any other European City in May, but well worth it to find some of the hidden gems.
Taking the time to walk a few kilometres away from the film festivities allows you to find the prices average, the food diverse, and the energy vibrant.
There are very few opportunities for the average person to be chased around by photographers and sign autographs (willingly). Because Cannes is an international film festival, there are celebrities from all different countries, making it much easier to be a faux-celeb for an hour or so. Easiest way is to switch clothes with a member of the opposite sex, get a pair or thick sunglasses, throw one of the $5 scarves that seem to be everywhere around your neck, and have a companion follow you into a crowded store/restaurant, ask for your autograph and seem really excited about it- give it a moment and I assure you at least one other person will ask, and then a few more.