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Cannes Film Festival 2023: Who's coming, what's showing and why we're excited

The full official line-up of the Cannes Film Festival has been unveiled
The full official line-up of the Cannes Film Festival has been unveiled Copyright Cannes Film Festival
Copyright Cannes Film Festival
By David Mouriquand
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The Cannes Film Festival starts today. From A-listers, promising premieres and why you'll need a big bladder, here's our preview of the top 10 films to look out for.

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The 76th Cannes Film Festival begins in earnest today and the jury lead byRuben Östlund will have the daunting task of awarding the top prize to film within a particularly stacked line-up

This year’s Official Selection is heavy on big-names including former double Palme d’Or winner Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes The Barley and I, Daniel Blake) as well as Wim Wenders, Nanni Moretti, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Hirokazu Kore-eda - who respectively won Cannes’ top prize for Paris, Texas, The Son’s Room, Winter Sleep and Shoplifters

The old guard will compete against names such as Wes Anderson with his new film Asteroid City and Todd Haynes's May December, as well as a record number of female filmmakers in Competition.

Indeed, a total of seven of the 21 Competition titles are directed by women, with talents including Alice Rohrwacher, Catherine Corsini, Jessica Hausner and Catherine Breillat. This is an all-time record for Cannes, which has repeatedly come under fire for its lack of gender representation – especially compared to the Berlin Film Festival's near gender parity in its most recent Competition selection. Still, it’s slow progress but it’s progress.

Glitz and glamour

Regarding A-listers, it’s going to be a paparazzi frenzy with a handful of films bringing in the red carpet goods.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro will both be there for the new Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon; Harrison Ford, Mads Mikkelsen and Phoebe Waller-Bridge will presumably be making the trip to France for the last instalment in the Indiana Jones saga, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny; Johnny Depp will grace the Croisette considering he stars in the opening film, Maïwenn’s Jeanne Du Barry; Jude Law and Alicia Vikander will represent Karim Aïnouz’s historical drama Firebrand

And then there’s the aforementioned Asteroid City, which leads the A-list charge, with Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Margot Robbie, Edward Norton, Maya Hawke and many more. 

Let’s also not forget that Michael Douglas will be attending to receive his honorary Palme d’Or too.

So with the 11-day celebration of film starting this evening with the opening ceremony, here are our most anticipated Competition and Out of Competition titles from the promising Class of 2023:

1) The Zone of Interest (Competition)

A24
The Zone of InterestA24

British director Jonathan Glazer is, somewhat surprisingly, a Cannes newbie. Since 2000, he’s given us acclaimed crime film Sexy Beast, the Nicole Kidman-starring drama Birth and Under The Skin, his undisputed masterpiece thus far, a deeply disturbing sci-fi that resonates to this day.

Now, 10 years later comes his fourth feature, adapted from Martin Amis’s 2014 novel of the same name. It’s a Holocaust drama about an Auschwitz commandant (Christian Friedel, seen in Amour Fou) and his wife (Toni Erdmann ’s Sandra Hüller), who strive to build a dream life for their family in the garden next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The story is reportedly told from the perspective of three characters, one being a Jewish Sonderkommando.

The film was shot in 2021 in Auschwitz and it promises to be one of this year’s most hard-hitting films. Its producer Ewa Puszczynska recently mentioned that The Zone of Interest was apparently the only film that was unanimously selected by the Cannes Selection committee. And as an added bonus, the film is scored by the wonderful Mica Levi, whose discordant and deeply unsettling Under the Skin score is one the best original film soundtracks of the 21st century. We can’t wait.

2) Killers of the Flower Moon (Out of Competition)

Apple+TV, Paramount Pictures
The Killers of the Flower MoonApple+TV, Paramount Pictures

Of course this one was going to make the list.

Set in 1920s Oklahoma, Martin Scorsese’s first Western chronicles the real-life murders of members of the Osage tribe after the discovery of oil on their land. The case tested the mettle of the FBI in its earliest days. The cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro (his first Cannes festival-selected film with Scorsese since The King of Comedy in 1983) and Brendan Fraser, as well as country star Sturgill Simpson and former White Stripes frontman Jack White.

It’s rumoured to be three hours and 45 minutes long, so if anyone thought that The Irishman was a slog, best of luck. Hopefully, this will be a cinematic endurance test worth the runtime. Provided you have the bladder of an ox and a comfy pillow with you.

3) Banel & Adama (Competition)

French-Senegalese filmmaker Ramata-Toulaye Sy stands as the sole debut feature director vying for the Palme d’Or this year. It’s quite the achievement, and most probably a daunting prospect. However, beyond this honour, the premise of the film has our attention.

Set in a remote village of Northern Senegal, the story follows the titular couple, who are fiercely in love. Longing for a home of their own, they have decided to live apart from their families. When Adama refuses his blood duty as future chief and informs the village council of his intentions, the whole community is disrupted and chaos ensues.

The film – a tragic love story, as Toulaye Sy has described it – was shot in Pulaar language with a cast of local non-professional actors, and from the looks of stills and footage, it looks like the lushly lensed Competition outlier that could make big waves this year.

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4) Occupied City (Special Screening)

AP, Atlas Contact
Steve McQueen will adapt his wife's book Atlas of an Occupied City: Amsterdam 1940-1945AP, Atlas Contact

Steve McQueen (Shame, 12 Years A Slave) is back on the Croisette this year with his first Cannes entry since his debut film, Hunger, in 2008.

His first feature-length documentary is based on his wife’s Bianca Stigter’s illustrated book, 'Atlas of an Occupied City: Amsterdam 1940-1945', which explores the Nazi subjugation of the Dutch capital during the second world war.

And like Killers of the Flower Moon, this documentary is going to be bum-numbing, clocking in at four hours and 30 minutes. Just don’t call it 12 Years A Documentary and pray that there’s an intermission.

5) Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Out of Competition)

Indy’s fifth and final outing sees 80-year-old Harrison Ford gracing the Palais steps before hanging up his whip and battered fedora.

James Mangold (Walk the Line, Logan) takes the reins from Spielberg, and this time around, Indy’s adventure is reportedly set around the US government recruiting ex-Nazis to give them the edge in the space race, and the titular MacGuffin which suggests a time-travelling component to the story.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge is along for the ride as Indy’s goddaughter, as well as Mads Mikkelsen as this instalment’s big bad. And despite the fact that the fourth chapter – 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – was a let-down, we can’t wait to see how Ford takes his final bow as the beloved adventurer. And obviously, to hear the iconic theme tune in a packed cinema.

6) L’Été Dernier (Competition)

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French director Catherine BreillatGetty

French provocateur Catherine Breillat (Romance, Anatomy of Hell) returns to Cannes, so expect some controversy.

L’Été Dernier (Last Summer) sees high-profile child abuse prosecuting lawyer Anna (Léa Drucker) fall for her husband’s (Olivier Rabourdin) 17-year-old son from a previous marriage, Theo (Samuel Kircher).

Considering Breillat has made a career of tackling taboo-busting subjects, you can expect the 74-year-old veteran to push some more boundaries with what promises to be a risqué erotic drama.

7) The Old Oak (Competition)

AP Photo
Two-time Palme d'Or winner Ken LoachAP Photo

Cannes regular Ken Loach feels in familiar territory with The Old Oak, the tale of the sole remaining pub in an economically ruined North-East former pit village.

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Considering how emotionally punishing I, Daniel Blake and his penultimate film Sorry We Missed You (2019) were, we’re prepping ourselves for The Old Oak to be hard-hitting. That being said, the 86-year-old Loach has promised that what could be his last film will be a more uplifting feature.

Watch this space – even if we doubt that Cannes will give a third Palme to the director, considering he has previously won the top prize for both 2006’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley and 2016’s I, Daniel Blake. That said, stranger things have happened.

8) May December (Competition)

Project Infinity
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May DecemberProject Infinity

The official synopsis for Todd Haynes’s (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, Carol) new film goes like this: "Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, Gracie Atherton-Yoo and her husband Joe (23 years her junior) brace themselves for their twins to graduate from high school. When Hollywood actress Elizabeth Berry comes to spend time with the family to better understand Gracie, who she will be playing in a film, family dynamics unravel under the pressure of the outside gaze. Joe, never having processed what happened in his youth, starts to confront the reality of life as an empty-nester at 36."

Natalie Portman stars Berry and Haynes regular Julianne Moore plays Gracie. What more do you need to be intrigued?

9) Asteroid City (Competition)

Who doesn’t love a good dose of Wes Anderson whimsey? 

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After the underrated The French Dispatch, 2018’s charming but middling Isle of Dogs and 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (arguably his greatest film to date), the indie director sets his latest feature during a Junior Stargazer convention in 1955, in a fictional desert town. Expect alien encounters, mannered discussions about life, and a fair few loving homages to sci-fi B-movies.

The all-star ensemble piece includes both regulars (Jason Schwartzman, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe) and newcomers (Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, Margot Robbie), and is nothing short of a red carpet coup for the festival organisers.

10) Firebrand (Competition)

Brouhaha Entertainment, Magnolia Mae Films
Alicia Vikander as Catherine Parr in FirebrandBrouhaha Entertainment, Magnolia Mae Films

Brazilian-Algerian director Karim Aïnouz adapts Elizabeth Fremantle’s 2013 novel 'Queen’s Gambit' for what feels like his big international break, after previously having directed many documentaries and video essays, as well as 2019’s underseen The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão – which premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard selection.

The director assembles an all-star cast for Firebrand, which sees Jude Law as Henry VIII and Alicia Vikander as his last wife, Catherine Parr – the only one to survive the king’s divorcing and beheading penchants.

The film is described as a “horror historical drama” and Aïnouz has stated it’s a “potboiler”. It could very well be the Competition title to keep a close eye on when it comes to accolades.

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There we have it. Click here for the full line-up and check out the video above for more about this year’s Cannes Festival: what to expect, whether the union strikes in France will disrupt the proceedings, and why this year’s jury matters. And stay tuned to Euronews Culture, as we'll be at the Cannes Film Festival to bring you all the latest news and reviews from this year’s 76th edition.

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