- The Cannes Film Festival has announced a (preliminary) list of 19 titles in competition for this year’s Palme d’Or, among them Catherine Breillat’s first feature in a decade, Last Summer, and two-time Palme d’Or winner Ken Loach’s The Old Oak. Yet Cannes 2023’s big story has been – and will likely remain – a high-profile title not in the running.
Cannes Film Festival 2023: The Official Competition entries have been announced, but the big story has been a high-profile title that will not be vying for the Palme d’Or
The Official Competition titles at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, to be held May 16–27, have been announced. (See full list further below.)
So far, the big news has been not who will be in competition for this year’s Palme d’Or – but who won’t be.
Cannes General Delegate/Artistic Director Thierry Frémaux has publicly lamented that despite his best efforts, veteran U.S. filmmaker Martin Scorsese (Palme d’Or for Taxi Driver, 1976; Best Director for After Hours, 1986) refused to have his latest feature, Killers of the Flower Moon, listed as a contender.
Instead, Scorsese’s (reportedly) $200 million period political crime drama – based on David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction bestseller about the greed-propelled murder of Osage Indians in 1920s Oklahoma – will be shown out of competition.
Well, will that mean (far) less publicity for the festival?
Cannes aficionados shouldn’t despair.
When the Killers of the Flower Moon stars – Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, this year’s Oscar winner Brendan Fraser (The Whale) – walk the Cannes red carpet, the ethnocentric (and disproportionately influential) American media will be there to cover it.
Besides, let’s not forget that another high-profile Hollywood title, James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which brings back 80-year-old Harrison Ford, will also be shown out of competition.
And that means lots of U.S.-based publicity for (at least two titles in) the festival.
Johnny Depp film is topic of latest (would-be) outrage
Make that three titles.
French actress-director Maïwenn’s Jeanne du Barry, which will be opening Cannes 2023 out of competition, has led to the latest opportunistic attempts to create a (social/legacy) media stir in the United States.
Wait … A French film causing a media to-do in the U.S.? How is that even possible?
It’s simple: The historical drama features U.S. actor Johnny Depp*, whose popularity has been badly battered following his unsavory performance at a contentious defamation court case that pitted the three-time Oscar nominee (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003; etc.) against ex-wife Amber Heard.
Just bear in mind that Depp has a supporting role – as King Louis XV – in Jeanne du Barry, which, as the title indicates, revolves around the courtesan played by director Maïwenn, who, as it happens, has been embroiled in her own public spat: She is being sued by Mediapart magazine editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel (formerly of Le Monde), who has accused the actress-filmmaker of grabbing him by the hair and spitting on him at a Paris restaurant.
Anyhow, more importantly, why on earth would you cast an American actor as le Bien-Aimé? Especially when the rest of the Jeanne du Barry cast – Melvil Poupaud, Pierre Richard, Pascal Greggory, Noémie Lvovsky, Benjamin Lavernhe, Marianne Basle – is composed of French speakers?
One possibility is that Johnny Depp – like, to name one example from long ago, Ugo Tognazzi in La Cage aux Folles – will have his lines dubbed by a French actor in French-speaking territories, while, Amber Heard court fight or not, serving as a Hollywood-caliber box office draw internationally (i.e., outside France).
* Another Depp will also be seen out of competition at Cannes: Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp’s daughter with Vanessa Paradis, and the female lead in Sam Levinson’s upcoming HBO series The Idol, also featuring co-creator Abel Tesfaye (a.k.a. The Weeknd). It’s unclear how many episodes will be presented.
Five former Palme d’Or winners are back
Now, which movies will be actually vying for the 2023 Palme d’Or?
Nineteen titles have been announced to date, though that number is supposed to increase in the coming weeks.
For starters, no less than five Palme d’Or winners are back this year:
- Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Winter Sleep, 2014) with About Dry Grasses / Kuru Otlar Ustune, the story of a young teacher sent to a remote Turkish village while dreaming of being transferred to cosmopolitan Istanbul. In the cast: Merve Dizdar, Deniz Celiloglu, and Musab Ekici.
- Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters, 2018) with Monster, about a school incident between a young boy and his teacher, and told – Rashomon-style – through three different perspectives (the boy, the teacher, and the boy’s mother). In the cast: Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, and Yuko Tanaka. Music by the recently deceased Ryuichi Sakamoto.
- Two-time winner Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, 2006; I, Daniel Blake, 2016) with The Old Oak, about Syrian refugees arriving in a former mining village in northern England’s County Durham. In the cast: Debbie Honeywood.
- Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room, 2001) with The Future Sun / Il sol dell’avvenire, a Rome-set comedy reportedly mixing elements from the circus and film worlds. In the international cast: Mathieu Amalric, Margherita Buy, Silvio Orlando, Barbora Bobulova, Jerzy Stuhr, and director Moretti. (And no connection to Gianfranco Pannone’s 2008 documentary Il sol dell’avvenire, about far-left terrorism.)
- Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, 1984) with Perfect Days, the tale of a Japanese janitor who likes to listen to rock music while driving between jobs. Another Wenders film, Anselm / Das Rauschen der Zeit, a documentary on painter Anselm Kiefer, will have a special screening at the festival.
Six women directors
Also of note, six films – a Cannes record – are from women directors:
- Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters / Les filles d’Olfa, an apparent fiction/documentary blend about a Tunisian woman whose daughters joined the Islamic State. In the cast: Hend Sabry.
- Catherine Breillat’s Last Summer / L’été dernier, about a successful attorney (Léa Drucker) who becomes involved with her companion’s 17-year-old stepson (Samuel Kircher, son of actors Irène Jacob and Jérôme Kircher). This remake of May el-Toukhy’s Danish drama Queen of Hearts is Breillat’s first feature since the 2013 semi-autobiographical drama Abuse of Weakness.
- Jessica Hausner’s Club Zero, about a teacher whose relationship with a group of students at an elite school takes a disturbing turn. In the international cast: Mia Wasikowska, Mathieu Demy, Elsa Zylberstein, Amir El-Masry, and Sidse Babett Knudsen.
- Alice Rohrwacher’s The Chimera / La chimera, about a group of archaeologists and the issues resulting from the black market of historical artifacts. In the cast: Isabella Rossellini, Josh O’Connor, and director Rohrwacher.
- Feature film newcomer Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s Banel & Adama, about the consequences of the romantic relationship between the two title characters – one of whom is expected to become the chief of his remote Senegalese village. (If this sounds more or less familiar, think of similar tribal-duty tales like The Student Prince, Roman Holiday, etc.)
- Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall / Anatomie d’une chute, about a writer (Sandra Hüller) accused of murdering her husband, and whose visually impaired young son (Milo Machado Graner) may hold the key to what actually transpired. Also in the cast: Samuel Theis, Swann Arlaud.
The only Western Hemisphere country that matters
If you’re looking for “American cinema” – as in, cinema from the Americas – among Cannes’ Official Competition titles, you’re in luck: There are three titles (one a coproduction with the United Kingdom and Poland).
Having said that, if you’re looking for movies from the Americas made in a country other than the United States, you’re totally out of luck.* And that shouldn’t surprise you at Cannes, where the only two countries that truly matter from a commercial/p.r. standpoint are the U.S. and France.
The three U.S./part-U.S. titles vying for the Palme d’Or are the following:
- Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, about the various social and emotional entanglements of a group of people gathered at a Stargazer convention in a desert American town in the mid-1950s. In the mostly big-name cast: Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Rupert Friend, Hong Chau, Margot Robbie, Tilda Swinton, Steve Carell, and Anderson muse Jason Schwartzman.
- Todd Haynes’ May December, the story of an actress who travels to Maine to learn more about the notorious woman she is slated to play in a movie. In the cast: Natalie Portman as the actress, Haynes muse Julianne Moore as the woman, and Charles Melton as her far younger/ethnically mixed husband.
- Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, based on British author Martin Amis’ 2014 novel about a Nazi officer who falls in love with the wife of the camp commandant at Auschwitz (where the movie was partly shot). In the cast: Anatomy of a Fall star Sandra Hüller, Christian Friedel, Ralph Herforth, and Max Beck – all German speakers who’ll apparently be speaking English in the film. Whatever your views on that, expect strong reactions to this latest effort by the director of the controversial Birth (booed at Venice) and of the generally well-regarded box office bomb Under the Skin.
* Unless you count Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz’s British-made historical drama Firebrand as a “South American” effort. The story of Catherine Parr, King Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife, Firebrand stars Alicia Vikander (instead of the originally announced Michelle Williams) as Parr; Jude Law as the king; Eddie Marsan as Edward Seymour, Lord Protector of England; and Sam Riley as Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, brother of Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour, and Parr’s eventual fourth and final husband.
More Official Competition entries
Cannes’ four remaining Official Competition titles are:
- Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves / Dead Leaves / Kuolleet lehdet, described as the Finnish filmmaker’s “latest installment in his proletariat series,” following Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory.
- Eighty-three-year-old veteran Marco Bellocchio’s Kidnapped / Rapito, about the abduction of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish boy from Bologna (and the subject of an unrealized Steven Spielberg project) who was raised as a Catholic under the aegis of none other than Pope Pius IX. In the cast: Barbara Ronchi, Fabrizio Gifuni, and Filippo Timi.
- Tran Anh Hun’s The Pot au Feu / La passion de Dodin Bouffant, about the relationship between a first-rate cook (Juliette Binoche) and the titular gastronomer (played by Binoche’s former real-life partner Benoît Magimel), who happens to be the fictional subject of Marcel Rouff’s 1924 novel La vie et la passion de Dodin-Bouffant, Gourmet. (Bouffer is a slangy way of saying “to eat.” See Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe, which caused a furor at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.) The Pot au Feu is one of five French/part-French titles in the running for the Palme d’Or.
- Wang Bing’s Shanghai Youth / Jeunesse / Shanghai Qingnian, a full-fledged documentary – a rare genre in Cannes’ Official Competition – about young migrants from China’s Yunnan Province living in dire conditions in the Shanghai area’s Liming district. Wang also has another nonfiction effort at the festival, Man in Black, which will have a special screening. In the film/video, Chinese composer Wang Xilin recalls segments of his life.
Two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund (The Square, 2017; Triangle of Sadness, 2022) will lead Cannes’ Official Competition jury.
Pedro Almodóvar & Jean-Luc Godard
Also of note, Cannes 2023 will be screening a couple of shorts by venerated filmmakers:
- Pedro Almodóvar’s Western Strange Way of Life, which is supposed to have an LGBT theme. (It’s unclear which initial exactly.) Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal star as, respectively, a desert town sheriff and an old friend who comes to pay him a visit. Strange Way of Life is the Spanish director’s second English-language effort, following the short The Human Voice, which was screened at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.
- The recently deceased Jean-Luc Godard’s Funny Wars, which reportedly consists of collages and philosophical meditations that should bring to mind Chris Marker’s La Jetée.
Two greatest regrets
Lastly, as an indication of Cannes’ aspirations, Thierry Frémaux told Variety’s Elsa Keslassy that his “two regrets this year” – movies that he will be unable to bring to Cannes – are Christopher Nolan’s $100 million, 180-minute biopic Oppenheimer, starring Cillian Murphy as “the father of the atomic bomb,” and Greta Gerwig’s $145 million comedy Barbie (box office article), starring Margot Robbie as the titular doll and Ryan Gosling as Ken.
For the time being, both titles are slated to open on July 21 in the United States.
Immediately below is the list of this year’s Cannes Film Festival features. Notice that a) productions/co-productions from three countries (France, the United States, Italy) account for more than half of the Official Competition titles b) the Un Certain Regard list is far more “global.”
About Dry Grasses / Kuru Otlar Ustune by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey)
Anatomy of a Fall / Anatomie d’une chute by Justine Triet (France)
Asteroid City by Wes Anderson (United States)
Banel & Adama / Banel et Adama by Ramata-Toulaye Sy (Senegal)
The Chimera / La chimera by Alice Rohrwacher (France | Italy | Switzerland)
Club Zero by Jessica Hausner (Austria| Denmark| France| Germany | United Kingdom)
Fallen Leaves / Kuolleet lehdet by Aki Kaurismäki (Finland)
Firebrand by Karim Aïnouz (United Kingdom)
Four Daughters / Les filles d’Olfa by Kaouther Ben Hania (Tunisia)
The Future Sun / Il sol dell’avvenire by Nanni Moretti (Italy)
Kidnapped / Rapito by Marco Bellocchio (Italy)
Last Summer / L’été dernier by Catherine Breillat (France)
May December by Todd Haynes (United States)
Monster / Kaibutsu by Hirokazu Kore-eda (Japan)
The Old Oak by Ken Loach (United Kingdom)
Perfect Days by Wim Wenders (Germany | Japan)
The Pot au Feu / La passion de Dodin Bouffant by Tran Anh Hun (France)
Shanghai Youth / Shanghai Qingnian by Wang Bing (China)
The Zone of Interest by Jonathan Glazer (Poland | United Kingdom | United States)
Un Certain Regard
Le règne animal by Thomas Cailley (France) – Opening Film
The Breaking Ice by Anthony Chen (Singapore)
The Buriti Flower / Crowrã by João Salaviza & Renée Nader Messora (Brazil)
The Delinquents / Los delincuentes by Rodrigo Moreno (Argentina)
Goodbye Julia by Mohamed Kordofani (Sudan | Egypt | France | Germany | Saudi Arabia | Sweden)
Hopeless / Hwaran by Kim Chang-Hoon (South Korea)
How to Have Sex by Molly Manning Walker (United Kingdom)
If Only I Could Hibernate by Zoljargal Purevdash (Mongolia)
Les meutes by Kamal Lazraq (Morocco)
The Mother of All Lies / Kadib Abyad by Asmae El Moudir (Morocco)
The Nature of Love / Simple comme Sylvain by Monia Chokri (Canada)
The New Boy by Warwick Thornton (Australia)
Omen / Augure by Baloji Tshiani (Belgium | Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Rien à perdre by Delphine Deloget (France)
Rosalie by Stéphanie Di Giusto (France)
The Settlers / Los colonos by Felipe Gálvez (Chile | Argentina)
Terrestrial Verses by Ali Asgari & Alireza Khatami (Iran)
Out of Competition
Cobweb by Kim Jee-Woon (South Korea)
The Idol by Sam Levinson (United States)
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny by James Mangold (United States)
Killers of the Flower Moon by Martin Scorsese (United States)
Jeanne du Barry by Maïwenn (France)
Acide by Just Philippot (France)
Kennedy by Anurag Kashyap (India)
Omar la Fraise by Elias Belkeddar (France)
Bonnard, Pierre & Marthe by Martin Provost (France)
Close Your Eyes / Cerrar los ojos by Victor Erice (Argentina | Spain)
Kubi by Takeshi Kitano (Japan)
Along Came Love / Le temps d’aimer by Katell Quillévéré (France)
Anselm / Das Rauschen der Zeit by Wim Wenders (Germany)
Man in Black by Wang Bing (China)
Occupied City by Steve McQueen (United Kingdom | United States)
Pictures of Ghosts / Retratos Fantasmas by Kleber Mendonça Filho (Brazil)
“Cannes Festival 2023: Palme d’Or Non-Contender Is The Big Story” notes
Luc Besson accusation
 The reason for the alleged attack is unclear, though some in the media have – without evidence – connected it to a Mediapart report in which an actress accused filmmaker and Maïwenn’s ex-husband Luc Besson (The Big Blue, La Femme Nikita) of sexual assault.
Besson has denied the accusation.
Maïwenn and Besson were married from 1992–97. The couple have a daughter, actress-photographer Shanna Besson.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone Killers of the Flower Moon movie image: Apple TV+ | Paramount Pictures.
Nanni Moretti and Mathieu Amalric The Future Sun / Il sol dell’avvenire image: Sacher Film | Fandango | Rai Cinema.
Steve Carell Asteroid City movie image: Focus Features.
Pedro Almodóvar, Ethan Hawke, and Pedro Pascal Strange Way of Life movie image: El Deseo | Saint Laurent.
“Cannes Festival 2023: Palme d’Or Non-Contender Is The Big Story” last updated in August 2023.