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June 15, 2008
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Film Festivals

Europe's top 10 celluloid shindigs.

Venice - Home of the Golden Lion
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Fill up the popcorn bucket, and head for a filmfest…

1. Festival de Cannes: Why? Numero uno not only in Europe but in the world. Mainly one for beachside star-gazing and soaking up the atmosphere of 30,000 backstabbing film professionals all in one place. Most festival events are strictly industry only, but the Cannes Cinéphile programme puts on parallel screenings of all selected films. Where? The Palais des Festivals is the focus, but screenings take place all over town. When? Annually for 10 days in mid May. How? Multiple daily flights to Nice on Air France, BA, BMI, and Easyjet (2 hrs.), followed by helicopter if you’re a movie mogul, or train if you’re not. Sleep with the stars: Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc (www.edenroc-hotel.fr). On the tip of Cap D’Antibes, chic and ultra-discrete with the feel of a private chateau. Twenty five acres of grounds keep the paparazzi at bay. Just another extra: Hotel America (www.hotel-america.com). A 3 star cracker just one block behind the big boys. Whilst you’re there: Drift along the seafront Boulevard La Croisette, ogle the yachts in the marina, and breathe in the heady aroma of wealth. Tell me more: www.festival-cannes.fr.

2. Venice Film Festival: Why? The original market leader until Mussolini tarnished the brand image and Cannes won the crown. Still, not many movie celebrities would feel themselves too grand to make an appearance to collect their Golden Lion. (And what a setting.) Where? Venice Lido, a vaporetto ride from St. Mark’s Square, plus all over town. When? Annually for 10 days in late August / early September. How? Multiple daily flights to Venice on BA, BMI, Easyjet and Ryanair (Treviso) (2 hrs). Sleep with the stars: Hotel Cipriani (www.hotelcipriani.com).Italy’s grandest hotel – utter luxury, at a price. Watch the screening then catch up with the director afterwards in the bar. Just another extra: Locanda Sturion (t. +39 41 523 6243)). Family owned inn with 2 rooms facing onto the Grand Canal. Run with care and tradition but reached up 4 flights of stairs. Whilst you’re there: Check the tide tables and see Venice while you still can. Canals, churches and bags of romance. Tell me more: www.labiennale.org/it/cinema/i-ndex.html.

3. Times BFI London Film Festival. Why? Something for everyone at the UK’s leading film jamboree. Now firmly established as a top rank forum, it’s the largest cinema event in Europe where you can actually get to see the films. Where? Twin centres in Leicester Square and the South Bank, plus venues around the West End. When? Annually for two weeks in late October / early November. How? Train, tube, bike or walk. Sleep with the stars: St Martins Lane Hotel (www.stmartinslane.com). Ian Schrager remains the darling of the Hollywood crowd. Cool, cool, cool fantasyland just a canapé’s toss from the action in Leicester Square. Just another extra: How about chez vous? Whilst you’re there: Do a tourist thing for once – take a look at the city from the London Eye. Tell me more: www.iff.org.uk.

4. Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival). Why? A good mix of celebrity glitter, serious business and public participation make for a tried and tested success. The opportunity to showcase in Euope’s richest market ensures industry (and star) pulling power. A nice feature is the final day Kinotag when all films get shown at rock bottom prices. Where? Potsdamer Platz is the new HQ, plus venues across the city. When? Annually for 10 days in early Febraury. How? Multiple daily flights to Berlin on Air Berlin, BA, Lufthansa, easyJet and Ryanair (1 hr 45 mins.). Sleep with the stars: Hotel Adlon (www.hotel-adlon.de). For those with the wallets, the born-again Adlon is once more the place to be seen with a peerless location on Unter den Linden. Greta Garbo once lived there, but modern celebrities usually settle for dropping by. Just another extra: Propeller Island (www.propeller-island.com). Script your own movie around a choice of rooms weirder than anything in the festival. Whilst you’re there: Catch the new German capital whilst still being built. Exhilarating and exhausting, it’s history taking shape around you. The Reichstag and Jewish Museum are both “musts”. Just don’t mention the wall. Tell me more: www.berlinale.de.

5. Locarno International Film Festival Why? The main square of this Italian-speaking Swiss town is converted into a 7000 seat open-air cinema with the world’s biggest screen and awesome surround sound. Expect a diet of indie cinema, including some heavyweight names. Where? The Piazza Grande under the stars. When? Annually for 10 days in August. How? Multiple daily flights to Milan Malpensa on Alitalia or BA (2 hrs.), followed by approx. 90 mins. drive. Sleep with the stars: Castello del Solle (www.castellodelsole.ch). Plush pad with its own private beach on Lake Maggiore. Relais & Chateaux service and very private grounds make it a welcome stopping place for the festival’s bigger names. Just another extra: Hotel Beau-Rivage (www.treff-hotels.ch/beaurivage) Very steady and very Swiss, some nice lakeside views but don’t come expecting fireworks. Whilst you’re there: Lake Maggiore’s Borromeo Archipelgo – preferably by lake steamer - makes for an exotic extension. Tell me more: www.pardo.ch

6. Deauville Festival du Cinéma Américain. Why? A single-mindedly Gallic homage to the country they love to hate. Great retro seaside setting and a fair sprinkling of “A” and “B” list names. Conveniently the website lists which celebrities are currently in town. Where? Casino de Deauville and around town. When? Annually for 10 days in mid September. How? Portsmouth to Le Havre ferry then 45 mins by car. Sleep with the stars: Hotel Royal Barrière (www.lucienbarriere.com). Newly renovated, this ever-so-grand seafront hotel next to the casino is almost unanimously Hollywood’s choice. Expect to pay for the privilege though. Just another extra: Hotel L’Augeval (www.augeval.com). A Norman grande dame that keeps up the standards just a few minutes walk from the casino’s red carpet. Whilst you’re there: Talk the boardwalk stroll past the vintage beach huts – each is named for a different Hollywood star. Tell me more: www.festival-deauville.com.

7. Bristol Brief Encounters Festival. Why? Britain’s top festival for short films was kick-started by local hero Nick Park. It now features an eclectic range of British and International minflicks ranging from animation to documentary to plain strange. Where? Watershed and Arnolfini in the harbour area. When? Annually for 4 days in November. How? Train from Paddington in 100 mins, or around 2 hours drive, for Londoners; train, plane or car from everywhere else in UK. Sleep with the stars: Royal Crescent Hotel (Bath) (www.royalcrescent.co.uk). Discrete opulence finer than anything to be found in Bristol. Bath has enough whimsical English charm to soften even the most blasé screen nymphette’s heart. Just another extra: Berkeley Square Hotel (www.cliftonhotels.com) A good 3 star choice with a bit more presence than most, a stiffish 15 mins walk from the harbour. Whilst you’re there: Clifton and the Downs are timelessly elegant, whilst the revived harbour has a more contemporary buzz. Tell me more: www.brief-encounters.org.uk.

8. Three Continents Festival. Why? The elegant French provincial city of Nantes is the unlikely setting for Europe’s most vibrant festival of third world cinema. From Bollywood to the booming Nigerian video scene, everything’s there. Where? Across the city. When? Annually for 1 week in November. How? Multiple daily flights on Air France, BA or FlyBe (1 hr 15 mins). Sleep with the stars: Hotel La Perouse (www.hotel-laperouse.net) Truth be told, they’d probably hire a Loire chateau. Those with more modest budgets can still make a splash at La Perouse, much the hippest of Nantes’ hotels. Just another extra: Hotel Jules Verne (www.accorhotels.com) Straightforward accommodation, the strongest point is the city centre location. Whilst you’re there: Head across to nearby Poitiers. Its Futurescope theme park is dedicated to the cinema and shows some of the world’s most spectacular films and effects. Tell me more: www.3continents.com.

9. BASE Drive-In. Why? A summer celebration of the drive in - what could be more emblematic of the heyday of 60’s cinema. Hop across the Channel to Brussels to enjoy original language blockbusters on a giant 400 metre screen. Discounts if your car is older than you. Where? Leafy Esplanade Cinquantenaire in the city’s EU Quarter. When? Annually on weekend evenings throughout July and August. How? Tunnel or ferry to Calais then 2 hrs. drive. Sleep with the stars: Hôtel Métrople (www.metropolehotel.be). Prestigious belle epoque quarters just steps from the Grand Place. Not only do the stars stay – they shoot films there too. (The website lists over half a dozen). Just another extra: Sofitel Brussels Europe (www.sofitel.com). Just round the corner from the movies. First class business cool during the week, offers knock down bargains at weekends. Whilst you’re there: Brussels – Tintin’s hometown, and aren’t they proud. Follow the comic strip walk with outsize murals of a host of strange folk, tour the comic strip centre to view original artwork, then buy some picture books at the Tintin shop to take back home. Tell me more: www.basedrivein.be/bdi.

10. Paris: Festivals Year Round. Why? Paris, where “intellectual” is a compliment and arthouse cinemas get packed out. No monster annual bash, but more or less wall to wall enthusiasts’ festivals throughout the year. (I found 15). Everything from lesbian and gay to Cocteau to children’s cartoons. Where? Wherever there is a cinema. When? Throughout the year – check websites for details. How? Multiple daily flights on Air France, BA, BMI, Easyjet, or Flybe, (1 hr) or Eurostar (2hr 15 mins). Sleep with the stars: Hotel Costes (www.hotelcostes.com). Definitely not the best place to stay in Paris, but probably the best to namedrop about afterwards. So-hip-it-hurts bordello boutique hang-out for the film, fashion and media crowd. Just another extra: Hotel Beaumarchais (www.hotelbeaumarchais.com). Designer styling on a budget. Young, funky but a bit rough round the edges. Whilst you’re there: Pack your blades and storm through central Paris on the awesome Friday evening “Pari-Roller”. 10,000 skaters is regarded a respectable turn-out. Tell me more: www.paris-touristoffice.com.

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