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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May, 2005, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Partying with the rich and famous
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter in Cannes

The champagne party scene that surrounds the Cannes film festival is almost as legendary at the festival itself.

Paris Hilton
Stars like Paris Hilton prefer to party away from the public eye

Each May, the rich, famous and beautiful descend on the Cote d'Azur to see and be seen in all the right places.

Parties fizz on the beach, in hotel penthouses, countryside villas, and private yachts in a seemingly endless loop of celebration.

There are promotional lunches for the press, afternoon cocktail receptions, yacht parties for the stars, after-film parties. Even other film festivals use the event as an excuse to hold a launch party.

And all the while, festival-goers are hunting for the golden ticket that will get them into the biggest, brightest and most exclusive event in town.

Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon, from Us Weekly magazine, says it's the parties that make Cannes what it is.

"Cannes is all about the glamour and the glitz and bringing Hollywood to the Riviera.

"A lot of people spend time at Cannes trying to get into the right places and be seen rubbing shoulders with the right people.

Robert Downey Jr, Michelle Monaghan and Val Kilmer (r)
Stars of the Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang enjoyed a party on a luxury yacht

"A film company is judged on how outrageous their party is, and whether it is the hottest ticket of the festival, so the pressure is on to do something big.

"Exclusivity has a lot to do with it too. By limiting the people you invite, you get everyone asking 'Have you got a spare ticket?' or 'How can I get in?'."

Ms Vokes-Dudgeon adds that while the world's media get to see the glamorous side of the parties, it is the private ones where the real scandal goes on.

"Film companies organise the public events - like the ones the press get to go to - but the celebrities know they are on show, so they tend to be on their best behaviour.

"Paris Hilton only stayed at her party for 15 minutes on Saturday night, because she knew everyone would look at her and gawp.

The opportunity to bump into the right person or get access to five financers at just one party saves an awful amount of work
Ian Thompson, UK Film Council

"It's the private drinks at the Hotel du Cap, or the parties that are so remote they are impossible to crash, where the celebrities really let their hair down."

The party for Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang - starring Robert Downey Jnr and Val Kilmer - is one example of truly exclusive bash.

Invited guests were picked up and taken out to a luxury private yacht moored further out at sea.

And it is not only people from the film world that are attracted to the Cannes film festival.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell is rumoured to be holding her birthday party in Cannes this year, complete with performers from the Cirque du Soleil.

The annual Amfar (American Foundation for Aids Research) bash, which Sharon Stone and Elton John usually attend, is notoriously difficult to get into, so demand for a ticket is high.

The yearly MTV party is also a hot ticket.

Rachel Stevens
Singer Rachel Stevens was among those at the annual MTV party

This year, stars from the world of music, such as Natalie Imbruglia and Rachel Stevens, rubbed shoulders with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, at the Kung Fu Hustle-themed event.

But behind the canapes and champagne, there is a serious amount of networking and dealing going on among producers, financiers and film-makers.

"Everyone in Cannes is looking for a movie, or to sell their movie, or just to sell themselves," says Ian Thompson from the UK Film Council.

"The opportunity to bump into the right person or get access to five financiers at just one party saves an awful amount of work.

"If you are trying to pull finance together in London, for example, it is a long process, but if you are in Cannes at a party that process is democratised, and that is what makes Cannes unique.

"It's fun to go to a funky party and have a drink, but if you are down here to sell something, it is also essential."



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