Escaping to the South of France for a few days is always a treat but being there for the opening weekend of the 57th Cannes Film Festival makes it extra special. This is the second chance I would be able to attend the festival as an invited guest of Baron Philippe de Rothschild Wines and the third year for the annual Miss Mouton Cadet event organized by Anthony’s Grand Cellars, the exclusive importer and distributor of Baron Philippe de Rothschild wines in the Philippines.
The 57th Festival of Film began on May 12 this year. There was definitely more of a celebrity turnout than in 2003 when the Hollywood stars were not in full attendance due to the war Iraq. The jury, headed by Quentin Tarantino plus the mega blockbuster Troy screening the day before, kept the numerous fans reeling from the presence of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston on the red carpet. We arrived on the 3rd day of the festival and the first weekend when all the stars begun to arrive.
My husband and I flew in from Dubai where we currently reside and welcomed our three guests from Manila at the Nice airport. This year, we accompanied the chef of Le Soufflé, Jessie Sincioco, Tina Pamintuan – Ms. Mouton-Cadet 2004 and Mafe Yunon, the first runner-up.
The recently renovated art deco Hotel Martinez served as home base for the Philippine contingent. Located on La Croisette, the picturesque seaside boulevard of Cannes, we were very close to the action and the stargazing taking place right on the beach. On the same floor as us, literally two doors down from our room, were Kathleen Turner and Tilda Swinton, both members of this years’ jury.
The first get together was an al fresco lunch at the hip and happening Z Plage beachfront bistro where we soaked in the beautiful weather, the cool ambience and the stylish crowd. Cuisine d’herbes was what the menu proposed. Grilled meat and seafood accompanied by herb infusions, fresh salads and a selection of spa-inspired fresh juices. The beach was just a step away where more sexy young things were sunning themselves and enjoying spring’s first sunny day.
Our hosts from the winery, Laurent Dufau, export director and Anne Cusson, communication manager, were present as well as a restaurateur and a PR representative from Japan. It was a long and enjoyable meal where everyone got to know each other better. We all enjoyed the taste of simple cuisine paired with a newly discovered wine – a zesty rose from Cote de Provence, Chateau Minuty – the perfect accompaniment for an outdoor meal on a warm day.
Post lunch siestas were in order so we went upstairs for a little rest before the whirlwind weekend schedule started. We had to be dressed and ready at the lobby by half past five. The girls were slightly delayed and we walked slowly towards the Majestic Hotel to meet with the rest of the group. Anne waited for Jessie, Tina and Mafe who then had to run in high heels to the Palais de Festivals for that evening’s screening – a breathless start to the evening. Good thing we all made it on time!
Nothing can prepare you for that exhilarating feeling of walking on le tapis rouge, the famous red carpet, while hundreds of fans and photographers shriek, jostle and try to catch your attention just to get a glimpse of the who is walking by or to take that one second photo.
Francophile and two-time Palme d’Or winner Emir Kusturica’s – Zivot Je Cudo (Life is a Miracle) premiered that night where the audience were mostly French actors. Emmanuelle Beart, a jury member, and Sophie Marceau were there that night. The film showed the mundane events of life in a small Bosnian hillside town during the war. The protagonist was a railroad stationmaster/ father surrounded by a hilarious cast of characters including a crazy opera singer /mother, their football-obsessed son and a depressed donkey. Melancholic yet funny at the same time, the film was a novel representation of everyday life in war-torn Bosnia.
Dinner followed at the famous Fouquet’s that is right across the street from the Palais de Festivals. As this was our first traditional meal, I couldn’t resist having the Escargots Bourguignone and Cote de Boeuf with Béarnaise sauce and crispy fries. Simple French fare served with Baron’arques wine from the Languedoc region. We excused ourselves at midnight and strolled leisurely back to the hotel for a much-needed rest.
Saturday’s 10 a.m. start helped get everyone back on form and after a late breakfast at the hotel, we set off on a scenic drive towards Grasse, the perfume capital of the South of France. After a short tour at the Fragonard factory, the Filipino shopaholics bought loads of pasalubongs – perfumes and soaps then we headed off to lunch.
We arrived at the Relais et Chateaux Le Mas Candille, a wonderfully restored farmhouse transformed into a cozy 39-room hotel with the first Shiseido spa in Europe. Our outdoor table offered us a superb view of the hills surrounding the town of Mougins. Provencal cuisine at it’s finest was experienced that day with delicious creations like a Tatin of Foie Gras similar to a classic Tarte Tatin except for the addition of a layer of pan-fried goose liver on top of the apples. There was also a refreshingly simple carpaccio of scallops complemented by a lime and lemon infusion and chives. The more adventurous had sautéed rabbit with fava beans and another a roast pigeon with a velvety chestnut cream all served with Petit Mouton wine. It was the best meal we had all weekend.
Reluctant to leave such a beautiful setting, we headed back to Cannes and arrived in the middle of one of the several protests taking place during the festival. The roads approaching the hotel were all closed to traffic so we jogged the last few blocks and rushed off to get ready for that evening’s screening.
The 2nd night was a much more glamorous affair with the official premiere of the much-awaited sequel, Shrek 2. The red carpet was heaving with stars that evening from the film’s cast – Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona, Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots, Rupert Everett as Prince Charming and Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy Godmother plus Julie Andrews doing all the voice over for the songs. Aside from that, there were – Melanie Griffith, Justin Timberlake, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Natalie Imbruglia, Michael Moore and Jack Black playing up to the cameras. The animation was true-to-life and the film was hilarious from start to finish. There were many film spoofs and Hollywood clichés thrown into the storyline. Antonio Banderas’ Puss-in-boots character got the most laughs from the audience. The film was not usually what you would expect from Cannes but it was a lot of fun.
Our last evening in Cannes was spent at the exclusive rooftop terrace of Baron Philippe de Rothschild closed off to the public during the festival as a rest area for the jury and a place where the stars come to get interviewed.
Exquisite wines were served – Pauillac Baron Nathaniel 2000 and Chateau Clerc Milon 1996 with the appetizer of Lobster Salad. Magnums of Mouton Rothschild 1993 were served with the main course of Filet Mignon. The controversial 1993 with a label of a young nude by celebrated artist Balthus was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1996 after protests making this wine a hard-to-find collector’s item. This wine accompanied the main course of Filet Mignon and tomato endive confit. A selection of cheeses followed and we finished the meal with a Charlotte au Caramel and a Chateau Coutet 1995. Cigars, eaux de vie and espressos completed the meal and ended another gastronomically glamorous weekend in Cannes until next year comes along. We’re already looking forward to it.