Parties are so passé as Cannes gets frugal

Yes we Cannes? No we can't. The most glamorous film festival in the world is going to have a touch of the frugal about it this year as it feels the pinch of la crise.

The 62nd Cannes festival opens next month, and where film directors and A-list actors previously sipped champagne, this time they may find their flutes filled with sparkling rosé.

Even the festival's official coiffeur, Jacques Dessange, is not immune to the downturn and will be taking a team of 15 hairdressers to the festival, down from 20 last year. A spokesman said: "The team will be smaller this year partly because of la crise, and partly because we want to focus solely on styling actors and members of the jury."

Last year Penelope Cruz and Bono were among the guests at the festival's most publicised party, Vanity Fair's black-tie ball hosted by editor Graydon Carter at the Eden Roc hotel in Antibes. This year, the party is off. Beth Kseniak, spokesperson for Condé Nast, Vanity Fair's publisher, said: "Given the economic situation, we decided to forgo our dinner this year."

The exclusive nightclub Jimmy'z has lost two of its key sponsors, the couture label Fendi and Swarovski Crystal, while Louis Vuitton will be absent from the annual amfar Aids charity fundraiser and the cosmetics company L'Oréal has cancelled its annual advertising campaign outside the Art Deco Hotel Martinez.

David Lissard, the deputy mayor of Cannes, said that companies were wary of flaunting their wealth in the current climate. "People are afraid it is bad for their image to be seen in a place associated with wealth," he said.

The parties that are going ahead are also working to budgets. Caterer Michel Ernest said: "This year I have been asked for many more menus with pissaladière [Provençal onion tart] rather than foie gras." He said he had also noticed a resurgence of interest in sparkling rosé and wine instead of champagne.

The most luxurious hotels on the coast such as the Martinez – which offers its penthouse suite for €36,000 (£32,000) a night as opposed to €10,000 in the off season – have been fully booked for all 12 days of the festival since February. But accommodation is still available in the city. Michel Chevillon, head of the Cannes hotel association, said: "We're experiencing an unprecedented world crisis. Companies are sending fewer people, for shorter periods."

While more than 70 per cent of hotels have not changed their prices, hotels that required a 12-day reservation last year are accepting five-day bookings this year – usually unheard of, M. Chevillon said. At Cannes port all 60 berths for mega-yachts have been reserved. But companies that hire yachts are feeling the downturn, too.

Valerie Ruiz of the yacht broker Ashore, which rents yachts on behalf of their multimillionaire owners, said that bookings are down. "Whereas last year people would charter a yacht for the entire 12 days of the festival, this year we are getting enquiries from people who would like a yacht for two, three or four days," she said.

Mme Ruiz, whose prices range from €5,000 a day for a 23m craft to €80,000 for a 70m yacht, said: "We know we will receive a lot of last-minute enquiries because people are waiting for offers."

Festival president Gilles Jacob has predicted that visitor numbers could be slightly down when the festival opens on 13 May. But while the champagne may be on ice for another year, insiders have suggested that the diminishing glitz will be a good thing as the spotlight will return to the films.

M. Ernest said: "Let's hope that by doing away with some of the 'bling bling' we'll get back to a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere."

"Austerity à la Cannes will still turn out to be close to what most of us call luxury"

Leading article, page 30

Clint Eastwood interview

Life, pages 14&15

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