The 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, one of the world’s best-loved cultural events, is taking place from 16-27 May, and as ever, the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic will be playing a leading role.
A sense of celebration, glamour, the unexpected and business are on the agenda as always, along with plenty of glitter and a green environmental perspective – a colour that symbolises the sustainability policy that this palace-hotel in Cannes adheres to throughout the year and the twelve days of the festival.
As ever, the film festival is set to be an extraordinary event, and one of the key aspects for this year will be the environment.
The Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic and the Cannes Film Festival are likely the oldest couple in the French film industry and will celebrate 76 years together in May. Since the very first event immediately after the Second World War, this famous hotel on the Croisette has engrained itself into one of the world’s biggest festivals.
Each spring, the two reunite for two weeks with the same sense of pleasure and panache, celebrating an event encompassing unbridled joy and one teeming with glamour and talent.
This annual meet-up also provides an opportunity to recall a few happy memories – anecdotes that combine to create the legend that is the Cannes Film Festival.
An interesting fact, and something that older festival-goers might remember, is François André, the founder of the Barrière group, was the first official sponsor of the cinema industry’s biggest event. The man behind the town’s municipal casino (and the future owner of the Majestic, which he bought in 1962) opened up the thousand-seat auditorium of his gaming house to festival-goers.
A spacious venue was required to host the god-like Hollywood stars stepping out on the Croisette, led by famous names such as Tyrone Power and Gary Cooper, and this was the largest in Cannes at the time.
Sadly, on the morning of the opening day, 1 September 1939, Hitler’s invasion of Poland would signal the end of the event before it had even begun.
Rather than focusing on this non-event, festival fans prefer to remember the countless stars who have frequented the Majestic’s suites and the famous steps of the Palais des Festivals. They will remind you of the day when Paul Newman, the leading man in the film “Cool Hand Luke”, arrived unexpectedly at the Croisette – he could not find a room, and so Lucien Barrière in person gave him his personal private suite.
They also enjoy remembering the prank played out by Laetitia Casta, who elegantly parasailed from the pontoon of the Majestic’s private beach in her ball gown – pictures that made the headlines worldwide.
A few decades earlier, another French icon took to the water from the pontoon. But on this occasion, it wasn’t for fun – when they were left with no other option, Brigitte Bardot and her husband Roger Vadim jumped in a speedboat to evade the crowds and the paparazzi.
Festival fans will also tell you about the behind-the-scenes story from the night in May 2019 when the cast of La Cité de la Peur, the famous comedy starring Les Nuls, was celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary.
They will share their secrets of the faultless “carioca” performed by Gérard Darmon and Alain Chabat, who rehearsed their dance for two hours in the Mélodie Suite on the seventh/top floor of the Majestic.
In 2011, the cast of The Artist took over the hotel’s most beautiful suite, the Majestic Penthouse, which officially opened the year before. Celebrating Jean Dujardin’s Best Actor award, this evening remains one of the happiest ever experienced at this palace-hotel at 10, La Croisette and one which finally ended at 8 am the next morning.
And then, of course, there are all the little secrets that are whispered in the corridors of this 5-star property as the festival approaches, including the charming idiosyncrasies of certain stars: the humility of Lino Ventura, who used to make his own bed and cleaned his bathtub every morning before leaving his room. Pedro Almodovar’s requirement for five goose-down pillows; Charlton Heston’s bible, placed on his bedside table; and the dozens of verdant plants and flower pots that would decorate Holly Hunter’s suite.
We still smile at the memory of the admirer, forever anonymous, of Jeff Goldblum, who would deliver him a bouquet of 50 red roses every day during his stay.
And, lastly, the sweet tooth of Wim Wenders who, on the day before his departure, ordered a whole packet of the delicious caramels left by our housekeeper on his pillow every evening from our pastry-chef, such was his taste for them – a delicacy also favoured by French actress Michèle Laroque!
A festival abounding in elegance
This memory bank is also full of unusual anecdotes that relate to the world of couture, and we have lost count of the myriad of last-minute miracles performed by the Majestic’s staff. On one occasion, it was for Nick Nolte, who lost a button on his shirt twenty minutes before ascending the famous steps of the Palais des Festivals. On another, with the screening of Dancer in the Dark about to start, Björk decided that she needed to shorten her dress by three centimetres.
But, in the opinion of all the hotel’s housekeepers, the finest exploit of their team came courtesy of Maryline, the 5-star hotel’s official seamstress.
“The story dates back to the 2019 Cannes Film Festival”, Sophie, the Majestic’s head of housekeeping, told us.
“Invited to climb the steps of the Palais des Festivals, one of our female guests came down from her room dressed in a magnificent and figure-hugging ball gown. Unfortunately, she hadn’t even left the hotel when some stitching suddenly came apart, leaving a gaping hole in the side of her dress, at which point she was in a desperate state, convinced that her evening would be completely spoiled.
However, she hadn’t factored in the expertise of Mary, who climbed into the limo that was to take our guest to the foot of the Palais des Festival steps. Very luckily for her, several dozen vehicles were dropping off their passengers at the same time, covering the 400m stretch of the Croisette from the hotel at a snail’s pace, as a result of which Maryline was able to perform a minor miracle.
The final stitch was made when the vehicle stopped at the foot of the steps, and, as if nothing had happened, our festival attendee could climb the red carpet with her customary elegance! She thanked us profusely upon her return but never admitted to us whether she was afraid that the same thing would happen to her again at some point during the evening.”
The fact that thimbles and sewing needles are a key element in the best Majestic stories won’t come as a surprise to anyone, as everyone knows that the Cannes festival is as much a festival of elegance as it is of the movie world, with stars rivalling each other in sophistication and occasionally great audacity when the time comes to begin the ceremonial ascent of the Palais des Festivals steps.
This ritual is one that major luxury brands have always taken full advantage of, delighted to showcase their latest creations. It is for this reason that for the duration of the event, numerous haute-couture houses and famous jewellers book suites, guestrooms and lounges at the Majestic, which they transform into their showrooms.
The festival’s 76th edition will continue this trend with many of the world’s most prestigious brands taking up residence at the hotel for the twelve days of the festival, among them a name that will feel very much at home here, namely Christian Dior.
And for a good reason, as this famous couturier brand from the Avenue Montaigne in Paris has, every year for over a decade, booked the same suite at the hotel – the Christian Dior suite named after this famous designer, a 400m² apartment extensively designed by this famous Parisian fashion house in 2010 to incorporate iconic Dioresque creative elements.
The list of brand names staying at the Majestic during the upcoming festival is akin to that found on the programme of a fashion week event.
In addition to Christian Dior, you’ll also find prestigious names such as Chanel, Céline, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, Prada, Vuitton, Paco Rabanne and others. Standing alongside these long-established brands are up-and-coming yet already renowned designers such as Homolog, the refined brand founded by Emily Cheong, and AMI, the couture house recently created by the talented Alexandre Mattiussi.
And to ensure that the festival’s stars are truly glittering on the red carpet, several jewellers such as Pomellato, Boucheron and APM Monaco will also be making the journey to Cannes for the festival.
Let the party continue…
The festival is always a beautiful spectacle, and this also extends to its cuisine, thanks to the multitude of events that are an integral part of it. Several renowned companies attending the festival choose the Majestic as their base, including Mastercard, HP and others… All of whom will be returning to the hotel again this year.
Events such as private screenings, cocktail and evening events, and photo calls and press conferences continue non-stop for twelve days. And thanks to its private beach, magnificent pontoon, large function rooms, cinémathèque (the only private screening room in Cannes), its two restaurants (Fouquet’s Cannes and Paradiso Nicole & Pierre), its large swimming pool, terrace and stunning rotundas overlooking the Croisette, the Majestic is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this exhilarating atmosphere.
At the hotel, it is very much all hands on deck, including the well-being practitioners at the Diane Barrière spa who, on average, carry out 700 treatments and facials during the festival, a period when the hotel’s 350 full-time employees are nowhere near enough, so the Majestic needs to double its roster temporarily.
This increased number is required to change the thousands of sheets and towels, arrange a total of 8,000 flowers in its guestrooms, clean and iron 6,000 items of clothing, uncork 18,000 bottles of wine (half of which are champagne), serve 350kg of foie gras, 100kg of caviar and no fewer than 200,000 macaroons!
The hotel’s kitchens are at the forefront of operations, and it isn’t just the stoves and ovens that are red hot – the same applies to the frenetic activity in them, which sees the Majestic’s kitchen staff serving thousands of meals, cooking two tons of lobster, 800kg of langoustine, three tons of fish and ten times more fruit and vegetables!
Despite the passing of time, the festival remains an extraordinary event. Although it is perhaps considered overly extravagant and excessive in the eyes of some, this is far from the case. Like many nowadays, the organisers have become increasingly aware of their social responsibility.
As a consequence, since 2021, the festival has undertaken numerous initiatives to significantly reduce its environmental impact, a commitment that echoes that of the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic, which, for two years now, has met the stringent requirements of Green Globe, the leading reference in terms of sustainable development in the tourism sector.
Because of this, everything is subject to continual assessment and control, including energy and water consumption, waste management, the purchasing and provenance of goods and biodiversity. The Majestic’s commitment to the future and to sustainable development continues unabated, even though the hotel experiences a significant spike in activity for the duration of the festival.
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, the 5-star Majestic introduced several key initiatives: its waste-sorting activities enabled the hotel to recycle thousands of plastic bottles distributed in its guestrooms (totalling 180kg) as well as several tones of glass.
Working with its partner Veolia, it has also created a ton of biowaste (from its kitchens and washing-up operations). Which, in turn, has been transformed into compost to improve soil quality on several farms on the French Riviera.
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