Italian actress Monica Bellucci and French actress Sophie Marceau pose while arriving for the screening of the movie “Ne Te Retourne Pas” (Don’t Look Back) out of competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2009. POOL AFP PHOTO / CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

It’s that time of year when thousands of producers, distributors, publicists, directors, stars and the star-struck descend on the southern coastal town of Cannes, jewel of the French Riviera and the center of the cinematic universe for two weeks in May. For the Cannes Film Festival — arguably the most prestigious film event of the year — thousands of journalists from around the world come to report on the star-studded glam fest parading through the town’s avenues and down the prestigious red carpet.

Cannes had a troubled beginning — set to premier in 1939 to counter a propaganda film festival being put on in Venice by Mussolini, the festivities suddenly came to an end as it was announced that Germany had invaded Poland the same day. It wasn’t until 1946 that the event finally kicked off, and over the years it evolved into the current format known today, with “in competition” films — awarded the coveted Palme d’Or — and “off competition” films. But the real wheeling and dealing, and core of the festival, take place behind the scenes, where competition is fierce to snatch up the hottest films and strike deals with the most promising cinematic talent — a mix of Tinseltown glamor and commerce fueled by espressos and free-flowing cocktails. Official screenings where one can witness this unique ambience are difficult, but not impossible to get into with the right connections.

Besides deal-striking and hobnobbing with the glitterati, the most ferociously competitive activity in Cannes is — of course — star spotting, and where else to do this but the red-carpet entering the Palais des Festivals? Celebrities need to make the walk for whatever movie they’re promoting that particular night, and crowds form quickly, so one would be advised to show up early to get a prime spot. Of course, this may seem a little gauche, and we’d advise heading to La Croissette where you’re bound to see a paparazzi-hounded star or three stroll by.

Highlights of Cannes 2010

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