15 films we’re looking forward to at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival
by David Katz
- On the eve of the world’s premier film festival, we select some of the hottest and most-anticipated titles for your perusal
The 76th Cannes Film Festival comes around the corner with the industry in a healthily robust state. The past twelve months, and especially the first quarter of this year, has seen global theatrical box office become lucrative again following the pandemic; the festival itself, and for its films selected to “launch” there, needs booming theatres so titles can make an impact down the line. There’s also a renewed sense that traditional exhibition and platforms should be each other’s best allies, rather than competitors. The festival’s landing of Martin Scorsese’s Apple-backed Killers of the Flower Moon in a plum out-of-competition slot, seems a symbol of this accommodation, compared to Netflix’s controversial shunning of the traditional theatrical window.
Meanwhile, the programming in the Official Selection feels notable for two reasons: first, we have a record seven female filmmakers in the Competition, as the festival finally seems to be catching up to received industry wisdom on diversity and inclusion; secondly, Cannes this year feels very loyal to its “legends”, the veteran filmmakers who are indelibly associated with the Croisette. Wim Wenders, Ken Loach and Aki Kaurismäki seem to represent this older guard, whose presence in the line-up grants a nostalgic air (and we have to but wonder what shut out Víctor Erice from competing for the Palme?). The establishment in 2021 of the Cannes Prèmiere section has shaken things up nicely, and this year balances commercial titles with outré works like Lisandro Alonso’s Eureka [+see also:
interview: Lisandro Alonso
film profile] that have been at a premium in recent competitions. The Directors' Fortnight (newly renamed as the Quinzaine des Cinéastes in French) under the fresh leadership of Julien Rejl, seems also to have devised a more radical, perhaps market-shunning programming strategy, where previously the parallel section might have snapped up titles in contention for the Official Selection.
And as we acknowledge the strikes raging from both French energy workers, where some concern has spread that festival events may be disrupted, and American screenwriters, who like many industries are facing the threat of automation through AI, the sense of Cannes as the great hinge point of the cinematic year becomes undeniable again.
Below is a selection of high and low profile titles to look out for next week, although come on, you’re definitely planning to see the new Marty.
Eureka [+see also:
interview: Lisandro Alonso
film profile] - Lisandro Alonso
(France/Germany/Mexico/Argentina/Portugal – Cannes Première)
One of the more anticipated highbrow titles of recent years finally surfaces on the Croisette, as Alonso finally breaks the nine-year gap after Jauja [+see also:
film profile] with this ambitious study of global indigenous communities. Viggo Mortensen, Chiara Mastroianni, Iranian filmmaker Rafi Pitts, and numerous non-professionals head the film’s large ensemble cast. In a Q&A recently published on the festival’s site, the director called it “[his] most complex film… it has uncertain conclusions, and each viewer can find their own interpretation. It can be read in different ways.”
Premieres 20.30 Friday 19th May in the Salle Debussy
Strange Way of Life - Pedro Almodóvar
(Spain/France – Out of Competition)
Pedro has been hyping this one for months, and his second English-language and A-lister-driven short after The Human Voice will premiere alongside a “Rendez-vous” sit-down chat in the Debussy. It was very good intuition having Pedro Pascal line-up in this queer western, given all the current internet thirst. And more new information comes in that the film is the first to premiere from designer Saint Laurent’s newly established film production label.
Premieres 15:00 Wednesday 17th May in the Salle Debussy
Asteroid City - Wes Anderson
(United States – Competition)
A nice coincidence to follow an American-set western shot in Spain, with an American-set retro sci-fi western, also shot in Spain. This is supposedly one of Wes’s more touching and emotionally tender films, after Isle of Dogs [+see also:
film profile] and The French Dispatch [+see also:
film profile] were slightly cool to the touch.
Premieres 19.00 Tuesday 23rd May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
Last Summer [+see also:
interview: Catherine Breillat
film profile] - Catherine Breillat
(France – Competition)
Breillat is a cherished legend who’s actually lesser-spotted on the Croisette, making her first film in nine years feel ever more special. Léa Drucker, in the midst of a run of eye-catching performances in Custody [+see also:
interview: Xavier Legrand
film profile], Close [+see also:
interview: Eden Dambrine
interview: Lukas Dhont
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile] (seriously, that monologue midway through…) and Incredible But True [+see also:
interview: Quentin Dupieux
film profile], is in the lead, problematically romancing a young boy decades her junior. A remake of May el-Toukhy’s Queen of Hearts [+see also:
interview: Gustav Lindh
interview: May el-Toukhy
film profile], we suspect she won’t follow the beats to the letter of that prior film.
Premieres 19.30 Thursday 25th May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
Close Your Eyes [+see also:
film profile] - Víctor Erice
(Spain/Argentina – Cannes Première)
After winning an apparent conflict with a producer, the great, great Spanish director is presenting his favoured 169-minute cut of his comeback opus, concerning the missing disappearance of an actor, and the efforts to find him decades later by his close friend and former director. Sounds cinephilic, so it sounds like Erice.
Premieres 20.15 Monday 22nd May in the Salle Debussy
The Zone of Interest [+see also:
film profile] - Jonathan Glazer
(United Kingdom/Poland/United States – Competition)
Its Polish producer in an Instagram video post stated that it was unanimously accepted by the selection committee. And it is unanimously in practically everyone’s diary, with all eyes on that prime first Friday slot. The British-Jewish filmmaker directly inspects his heritage on screen for the first time, in this tale of an Auschwitz commandant (Christian Friedl) who strives to build a “dream life” and house for his family next to the camp.
Premieres 19.00 Friday 19th May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
Club Zero [+see also:
interview: Jessica Hausner
film profile] - Jessica Hausner
(Austria/United Kingdom/Germany/France/Denmark – Competition)
The topicality and intrigue of this new film by Jessica Hausner was immediately raised, when it was revealed to be about secondary school students dramatically reducing their food intake as a response to the climate crisis. The first images look pristine and almost whimsically colourful, but my, is the subject matter dark; earlier in her career, she was mentioned as a natural successor to Haneke, remember.
Premieres 19.30 Monday 22nd May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
How to Have Sex [+see also:
interview: Molly Manning Walker
film profile] - Molly Manning Walker
(United Kingdom/Greece – Un Certain Regard)
This is a British title that’s carried strong buzz through its development process, and will be one in the Un Certain Regard slate that many have circled. Molly Manning Walker, who also DP'd this year’s Sundance winner Scrapper [+see also:
film profile], makes her feature debut with this tale of three British teenage girls’ “rites-of-passage” holiday in Greece.. The stage is set for a similar breakthrough to recent Cannes-anointed Brits Charlotte Wells and Andrea Arnold.
Premieres 13.30 Friday 19th May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
Mambar Pierrette [+see also:
interview: Rosine Mbakam
film profile] - Rosine Mbakam
(Belgium/Cameroon – Directors' Fortnight)
Mbakam’s Delphine’s Prayers was one of the most powerful and piercing docs to premiere in 2021, so we have particular hopes for her fiction debut, which follows a dressmaker through her daily mores, in the city of Douala, Cameroon. The Fortnight’s programme description calls it “a reflection of its leading actress: valiant, discreet and above all resilient.”
Premieres 14.45 Sunday 21st May in the Théâtre Croisette
Occupied City [+see also:
film profile] - Steve McQueen
(United Kingdom/Netherlands/United States – Special Screenings)
McQueen, whose feature film career was launched in Cannes after his Camera d’Or in 2008 for Hunger [+see also:
interview: Laura Hastings-Smith Rob…
interview: Steve McQueen
film profile], returns with this four-and-a-half hour documentary-essay about his adopted hometown of Amsterdam, and the enduring remnants of its past under Nazi occupation, all put in conversation with the last turbulent years of “pandemic and protest”. The festival homepage’s notes are not unenthusiastic, as “what emerges is both devastating and life-affirming.”
Premieres 10.00 Wednesday 17th May in the Salle Debussy
Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry [+see also:
interview: Elene Naveriani
film profile] - Elene Naveriani
(Switzerland/Georgia – Directors' Fortnight)
With Georgia experiencing a growth in production and international attention for their cinema, any new work from that nation premiering at Cannes, Venice and the like should garner anticipation. Boasting a lovely, alliterative title, this third feature from non-binary filmmaker Elene Naveriani tells of a 48-year old virgin and convenience store-proprietor, who’s granted some late-breaking first love.
Premieres 8.30 Sunday 21st May in the Théâtre Croisette
The Sweet East - Sean Price Williams
(United States – Directors' Fortnight)
The bio on Fortnight's page rightfully describes The Sweet East’s screenwriter Nick Pinkerton as a “notorious” film critic, and many paying attention to that discipline have gasped at his no-fucks tweeting, and cherished his Substack missives and monograph on Tsai Ming-Liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn. Here he makes the great step into the “making” side of the film world, together with ace DP Sean Price Williams on director duties, as they alight on a runaway high school student who discovers the eastern United States in all its modern glory and disarray.
Premieres 12.00 Thursday 18th May in the Théâtre Croisette
Killers of the Flower Moon - Martin Scorsese
(United States – Out of Competition)
An Oklahoma production schedule lasting almost two years. A 206-minute runtime. A whopping cheque from a Silicon Valley giant, betting their millions on a piece of art.. These are just a few things to recall about Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s neo-western focusing on and made in collaboration with the Osage nation of the Midwestern Great Plains, and we hope it’s as good as Cannes boss Thierry Frémaux has been touting.
Premieres 18.00 Saturday 20th May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
La Chimera [+see also:
film profile] - Alice Rohrwacher
(Italy/Switzerland/France – Competition)
Both one of the most-anticipated competition titles for cinephiles, and something that could potentially sway the jury for the Palme, given Rohrwacher’s growing status, and the mid-career stage she shares with jury president Ruben Östlund. An ensemble film partly in English, owing to the presence of Josh O’Connor, Rohrwacher takes us back to the 70’s and the tombaroli (artefact hunters, or tomb robbers), and their search for something sublime, encapsulated as the “Chimera.”
Premieres 15.30 Friday 26th May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
Anatomy of a Fall [+see also:
interview: Justine Triet
film profile] - Justine Triet
(France – Competition)
Some of the strongest pre-premiere buzz comes for Justine Triet’s fourth feature, and second in competition after Sibyl [+see also:
interview: Justine Triet
film profile]. Here she teams with a steelier leading presence than that of her last film, courtesy of the great Sandra Hüller, as she plays a writer indicted for her husband’s death, with her visually impaired son’s testimony holding her fate in the balance. Arthur Harari, acclaimed for Onoda [+see also:
interview: Arthur Harari
film profile], fills in on co-screenwriting duty.
Premieres 16.00 Sunday 21st May in the Grand Théâtre Lumière
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