Outside the Palais de Festival, there are always dozens of fans looking for tickets. — AFP Photo
CANNES — In a tiny tent on a campsite in the hills outside Cannes, Christopher and Noe are wrestling with their tuxedos before heading off in the hope of hitting the festival's celebrated red carpet.
Like dozens of other cash-strapped fans of the silver screen, they have pitched up at "Le Ranch", a campsite just down the road from the five-star splendour of the Cannes film festival.
The two friends arrived in Cannes on a budget train ticket earlier in the week after scoping out the cheapest possible way to make the festival and getting hold of a free three-day pass that the festival offers to cinema enthusiasts under 28.
A 20-minute bus ride from La Croisette, the three-star campsite has become a popular haunt for festival-goers who could never afford the eye-watering prices charged by the town's hotels, whose rates skyrocket during the movie extravaganza.
That said, this is far from the luxuries of "glamping" or glamour camping.
"It's much cheaper than anything else. I wouldn't have the money to stay in Cannes," said Christophe as he struggles out of his tent in the pouring rain to go for a shower.
Immaculately dressed in a suit and a tie, the pair head down to the action to take up positions outside the Palais des Festivals, the main movie venue, where they will stand for hours in search of tickets for a screening.
And if they get really lucky, they could even be walking the red carpet themselves.
"Actually, we spend most of the day begging," admits Noe with a grin, amused by the contrast between the "real life" of the campsite and the star-kissed glamour of Cannes' celebrated Croisette.
For Dominique Tallis, who runs Le Ranch, it's also the only time of the year when she is guaranteed a line of people queueing up to use the iron at the camp site's laundry.
"In the early morning, I see women leaving in their beautiful dresses and coming back with their stilettos in hand and their makeup all smudged," she laughs.
Car park as dressing room
"It's a good way of getting back to reality and it's also fun," smiles Yvette Mamalet, clutching sponge bags and towels as she walks with her husband Roger to the shower block where festival-goers are coming and going in flipflops.
Every two years, this retired couple comes to Cannes to try and see as many films as possible so they can have an idea what to show at the community cinema they run in the southern city of Toulouse.
With experience, the two have become experts on how to transform themselves from campers into chic and classy cinephiles, using their car as a changing room to put on their finery before climing the vaunted red steps of the Palais.
In the low-lit corridors of the carpark underneath the Palais, Roger ditches his jeans and dons an elegant suit, finished off with a ruby red bow tie, while in the back seat, Yvette wriggles into a long black dress with a diamante neckline.
A last glance in the rearview mirror and the couple are ready, heading up to join the stars as they step onto the red carpet. AFP