Cannes 2023 Opens with Glamour, Cinematic Royalty, and Scandal

A group of people standing in front of a crowd

The Cannes Film Festival 2023 hit La Croisette with the expected splash. On May 16, opening day, the biggest stars of international cinema walked the red carpet in their Elie Saab and Alexander McQueen, and settled their perfectly toned buttocks into cushy red seats to watch as Uma Thurman, stunning in Dior, awarded Michael Douglas with an honorary Palme d’Or. On cue, legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve joined Douglas onstage, and the pair declared that the 76th Cannes Film Festival had officially begun.

Perusing the fashion blogs, it’s no surprise to find Elle Fanning, Brie Larson, and jury president (and director of the 2022 Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness) Ruben Ostlund. But this most glamorous annual event on the French Riviera also revealed fabulous looks from actresses Emmanuelle Béart, Irène Jacob, and Gong Li.

Cannes 2023 Drama

It wouldn’t be Cannes without a soupçon de scandale. The opening night film features Johnny Depp playing Louis XV in French director Maïwenn’s Jeanne du Barry, in which the director also stars as the 18th century monarch’s eponymous mistress. While Johnny arrived to the Croisette to the embrace of hordes of swooning fans, the film’s selection was divisive following the heated defamation case Depp brought against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, after her 2018 Washington Post op-ed accused him of domestic violence. While he won the case on three counts, and was awarded $10 million in damages, the whole situation left a bad taste in people’s mouths. It didn’t help the film’s reputation that Maïwenn was sued for assaulting a French journalist in a restaurant earlier this year.

Jeanne du Barry, directed by Maïwenn

Female Directors at Cannes

In happier news, Cannes broke its own (unimpressive) record for the greatest number of women directors with films screening in competition. Of 21 films competing for the coveted Palme d’Or, the fest’s top honor, an all-time high of seven films are directed by women. (Still not much, but it’s a start!)

Léa Drucker in Last Summer directed by Catherine Breillat

The Most Anticipated Cannes 2023 Films

What movies are people drooling to see?

Between now and May 27, the festival will premiere new films from such revered American directors as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, and Steve McQueen. Other beloved auteurs represented include Wim Wenders, Ken Loach, Jonathan Glazer, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Nanni Moretti, Alice Rohrwacher, Jessica Hausner, Pedro Almodovar, Aki Kaurismaki, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Catherine Breillat, and Takeshi Kitano. Leave it to Cannes to even premiere a short film, Phony Wars, from the late New Wave Director Jean-Luc Godard.

Hotly anticipated Hollywood blockbusters like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Pixar’s Elemental will also premiere at the festival. Here are the titles that I would kill to be front row for.

Asteroid City (dir. Wes Anderson)

I’ve never met a Wes Anderson film I didn’t like. Here, the master of twisted deadpan hilarity, candy color pops, and cinematic symmetry has created a sci-fi rom-com about strange happenings that throw a wrench at the 1955 Junior Stargazer convention. The film stars Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Jeffrey Wright, alongside other stars like Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, and Maya Hawke. We won’t have to wait long for this one, as it’s coming to theaters on this side of the Atlantic on June 16.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (dir. James Mangold)

Why are people excited about a brand new Indiana Jones movie? Partially because we never thought there would be another new Indiana Jones movie, and partially because… it’s an Indiana Jones movie! This one features Indy on a horse, Indy falling out of a plane, Indy getting shot, all the fun stuff. It also boasts a new director, James Mangold (Walk the Line, The Wolverine, Ford v. Ferrari), and a whole host of thrilling co-stars including Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Antonio Banderas! And the hottest bad guy on the planet, Mads Mikkelsen! The other great thing about this particular Cannes flick is that we all get to see it in IMAX starting June 30.

Killers of the Flower Moon (dir. Martin Scorsese)

One of the buzziest films at Cannes is Martin Scorsese’s latest three-hour epic, which brings together two of his favorite leading men, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, onscreen together for the first time. The tragic tale of a white Oklahoma family that plots to steal from the Osage Nation was adapted from David Grann’s non-fiction bestseller by renowned screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump). Jesse Plemons is the FBI investigator trying to foil their evil plan, Lily Gladstone, his Osage wife. The film arrives in theaters everywhere in October.

May/December (dir. Todd Haynes)

Check it out. The brilliant director Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine) made a movie starring Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman that’s premiering in competition at Cannes, and it still doesn’t have a distributor. Strange days, indeed. Moore plays Gracie Atherton-Yu, a woman whose romance with her much younger husband Joe (Charles Melton) was once a national tabloid obsession. When an actress (Portman) visits the couple as part of her preparation to play Gracie in an upcoming film, all the drama rises to the surface again, pushing the couple toward a breaking point. This sounds like Haynes, his longtime muse, Moore, and Portman at their dramatic best. Let’s hope a buyer emerges soon, so all of us can fix our eyes on the magic.

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May/December

La Chimera (dir. Alice Rohrwacher)

Italian director Rohrwacher’s fourth feature stars Josh O’Connor (Emma, The Crown) as a British archaeologist who gets caught up with a nasty band of tomb raiders. Also starring the inimitable Isabella Rossellini, the film is the final chapter in a trio of films about Italian identity that began with the 2014 Grand Prix winner The Wonders, followed by Happy as Lazzaro, which won best screenplay at Cannes in 2018. Neon has acquired the international rights to the film, which suggests it will be coming to a theater near you… eventually.

Mia Wasikowska in Club Zero directed by Jessica Hausner

Club Zero (dir. Jessica Hausner)

Austrian director Hausner’s feature, Little Joe, was screened in competition in 2019 and won its star, Emily Beecham, the award for best actress. Her second English-language film is set at an elite boarding school, where a young teacher, played by Mia Wasikowska, introduces her students to a practice she calls “conscious eating,” which involves decreasing food consumption to a dangerous degree.

How to Have Sex (dir. Molly Manning Walker)

How can you not want to see a movie called How to Have Sex? The rights to 29-year-old cinematographer-turned-director Walker’s film have already been snatched up by MUBI prior to its Un Certain Regard premiere, so we should be able to stream it soon. According to IMDb, “Three British teenage girls go on a rites-of-passage holiday – drinking, clubbing and hooking up, in what should be the best summer of their lives.”

Last Summer (dir. Catherine Breillat)

Revered French filmmaker Catherine Breillat’s first film in 10 years is a remake of the Danish erotic drama Queen of Hearts, written and directed by May el-Toukhy, which won nine Robert Awards (the Danish equivalent of the Oscars), including Best Danish Film in 2019. Breillat’s version stars Léa Drucker (Close) as a middle-aged woman entrenched in a passionate affair with her teenage stepson. The director of such provocative films as Romance and Fat Girl is known for taking on explicit material, often involving an honest, at times shocking, take on female sexuality. The film is screening in competition.

Perfect Days (dir. Wim Wenders)

Like with Haynes, Breillat, Anderson, and Scorsese, there are certain filmmakers whose films can’t be missed. Here’s Cannes’ description of Wenders’ latest: “Hirayama seems utterly content with his simple life as a cleaner of toilets in Tokyo. Outside of his very structured everyday routine he enjoys his passion for music and for books. And he loves trees and takes photos of them. A series of unexpected encounters gradually reveal more of his past. A deeply moving and poetic reflection on finding beauty in the everyday world around us.”

Strange Way of Life (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)

Spanish provocateur and Cannes regular Pedro Almodóvar is at Cannes with his second English-language film, which, like his first, The Human Voice (2021), is a short. According to indieWIRE, “When Brokeback Mountain was getting set up almost 20 years ago, the Spanish auteur considered directing that seminal gay Western, but turned down the chance out of fear that he would not have creative freedom. He’s now making his own gay Western on his own terms.” His version stars Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as a sheriff and rancher, once romantically involved, now meeting again 25 years later. This cast, this director, this concept… this one is at the top of my list.

The Zone of Interest (dir. Jonathan Glazer)

A decade after his masterpiece, Under the Skin, the director of Sexy Beast and Birth is back with an adaptation of Martin Amis’ 2014 satirical novel, starring Christian Friedel (The White Ribbon) and Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann). Glazer’s version focuses on Auschwitz commandant, Rudolf Höss, his wife Hedwig, and their dream of building a home next to the concentration camp. Glazer’s work has a habit of sliding under your skin (pun intended) in the most disturbing ways. No doubt he has brought a sense of horror and dread to this unsettling tale about how ordinary people react in the face of extraordinary evil.

The Zone of Interest, directed by Jonathan Glazer

Kubi (dir. Takeshi Kitano)

I was obsessed with Kitano in the 90s. The Hana-bi and Sonatine director, who often stars in his own films, brings astounding honesty and artistry to stories of incredible violence, often involving the Japanese Yakuza. Now he’s taking on a story of 16th century rival warlords battling to control Japan. A description of the film on the Cannes website says, “All roads lead to Honno-ji temple, where fate awaits them all. Which way will their heads roll…?”

Tighten your seatbelts!

The Cannes 2023 lineup:

Opening Night

Jeanne du Barry, Maïwenn

Closing Night

Elemental, Peter Sohn

In Competition

Club Zero, Jessica Hausner
The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer
Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismaki
Four Daughters, Kaouther Ben Hania
Asteroid City, Wes Anderson
Anatomie d’Une Chute, Justine Triet
Monster, Hirokazu Kore-eda
Il Sol dell’Avvenire, Nanni Moretti
La Chimera, Alice Rohrwacher
L’Eté Dernier, Catherine Breillat
La Passion De Dodin Bouffant, Tran Anh Hung
About Dry Grasses, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
May December, Todd Haynes
Rapito, Marco Bellocchio
Firebrand, Karim Ainouz
The Old Oak, Ken Loach
Banel et Adama, Ramata-Toulaye Sy
Perfect Days, Wim Wenders
Jeunesse, Wang Bing
Black Flies, Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Le Retour, Catherine Corsini

Out of Competition

Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese
Jeanne du Barry, Maïwenn
The Idol, Sam Levinson
Cobweb, Kim Jee-woon
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, James Mangold
L’Abbé Pierre – Une Vie de Combats, Frédéric Tellier

Midnight Screenings

Omar La Fraise, Elias Belkeddar
Acide, Just Philippot
Kennedy, Anurag Kashyap
Hypnotic, Robert Rodriguez
Project Silence, Kim Tae-gon

Cannes Premieres

Le Temps d’Aimer, Katell Quillevere
Kubi, Takeshi Kitano
Cerrar los Ojos, Victor Erice
Bonnar, Pierre et Marthe, Martin Provost
Lost In The Night (Perdidos en la Noche), Amat Escalante
Just The Two Of Us (L’Amour et Les Forêts), Valérie Donzelli
Eureka, Lisandro Alonso

Special Screenings

Anselm, Wim Wenders
Occupied City, Steve McQueen
Man in Black, Wang Bing
Little Girl Blue, Mona Achache
Bread and Roses, Sahra Mani
La Théorème de Marguerite, Anna Novion

Un Certain Regard

How to Have Sex, Molly Manning Walker
The Delinquents, Rodrigo Moreno
Simple Comme Sylvain, Monia Chokri
The Settlers, Felipe Galvez
The Mother of All Lies, Asmae El Moodier
The Buriti Flower, Joao Salaviza & Renee Nader
Goodbye Julia, Mohammed Kordofani
Omen, Baloji Thasiani
The Breaking Ice, Anthony Chen
Rosalie, Stéphanie Di Giusto
The New Boy, Warwick Thornton
If Only I Could Hibernate, Zoljargal Purevdash
Hopeless, Kim Chang-hoon
Rien à Perdre, Delphine Deloget
Les Meutes, Kamal Lazraq
Terrestrial Verses, Ali Asgari & Alireza Khatami
La Regne Animal, Thomas Caille
Only The River Flows, Wei Shujun
Une Nuit, Alex Lutz

Andrea Meyer has written creative treatments for commercial directors, a sex & the movies column for IFC, and a horror screenplay for MGM. Her first novel, Room for Love (St. Martin’s Press) is a romantic comedy based on an article she wrote for the New York Post, for which she pretended to look for a roommate as a ploy to meet men. A long-time film and entertainment journalist and former indieWIRE editor, Andrea has interviewed more actors and directors than she can remember. Her articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Elle, Glamour, Variety, Time Out NY, and the Boston Globe.

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