To draw similarities with more familiar terrain, the festival is not unlike a larger version of a major quant conference, but with more sun, sand and sex. There are the big premieres and innumerable smaller movies. The celebs attend only the biggest screenings, but will often sneak off as soon as they can. You can see the parallels. (I personally am more tolerant of boring, unimaginative films than I am of boring, unimaginative quant research!)
Being one of the plebs, I did actually see a few movies (as well as doing a decent amount of partying). Michael Moore's Sicko was excellent. I am sure it will be easy to pick holes in his data, but the big picture is spot on. I was at the premiere of Leonardo di Caprio's Al-Gore-without-the-science-but-with-a-real-Native-American-chief-instead 11th Hour. Daryl Hannah sat in front of me, you can see the back of her head in the photo below. (I know what you are thinking!)
Another film I must mention is the French Heros. Thirty minutes too long, it really drags, but then the main protagonist puts on the clown makeup, a Gene Kelly song, and some drum'n'bass and suddenly it's a whole new film. Worth sitting though the first 90 minutes for some memorable images towards the end.
Paul's Tips for Cannes:
1. Spend a few hours early on familiarizing yourself with all the venues and the system generally. Don't believe anything that anyone tells you, no matter how official they are. Printed info is usually correct however.
2. To get into the more exclusive screenings you must be a producer, director or someone on the buy side. (You need a pass with an 'R' on it.) Actors, editors, DOPs, etc. can get into many events, but PR people can't get into anything!
3. For the ladies, wear flat shoes whenever possible. You will spend many hours doing "the walk", up and down La Croisette, from screenings, to parties, etc. and back.
4. Cannes is surprisingly inexpensive. Except for taxis, that is. There is neither rhyme nor reason to the pricing, all that is certain is that they cost an arm and a leg.
5. In the screenings the celebs have reserved seating about one quarter of the way back from the screen. That's except for DH, who always sits in front of me. She must like younger men!