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Festival Lumière 2023: Premieres, classics & Wim for the win - here's what not to miss

The 2023 Lumière Festival kicks off in Lyon this weekend
The 2023 Lumière Festival kicks off in Lyon this weekend Copyright Festival Lumière, Donata Wenders, Apple TV+
Copyright Festival Lumière, Donata Wenders, Apple TV+
By David Mouriquand
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Cinephiles rejoice! The 2023 Lumière Festival kicks off in Lyon this weekend... And this year’s 15th edition is eye-wateringly good. Here’s the lowdown on the festival and the screenings and events you shouldn’t miss.

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It’s that time of the year again when cinephiles gather to the birthplace of cinema and immerse themselves in the seventh art.

The 2023 Lumière Festival kicks off in Lyon this weekend, from Saturday 14 - Sunday 22 October... And this year’s vintage looks like it’s going to be one for the books.

Since its creation in 2009, the festival has become an unmissable event for film lovers. This year’s 15th edition is no different and celebrates the work of Wim Wenders, who is the recipient of the prestigious Lumière Prize.

The German filmmaker will see 18 of his films screened – including such classics as Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, and Buena Vista Social Club - and joins the ranks of previous illustrious winners such as Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Wong Kar-wai, Jane Fonda, Jane Campion and last year’s prize-winner, Tim Burton.

Of particular note is the screening of Wenders’ new film, Perfect Days, which premiered in Cannes earlier this year and won the Best Actor Palme for veteran Japanese actor Koji Yakusho.

Director Wim Wenders, left, and Koji Yakusho pose for photographers at this year's Cannes Film Festival
Director Wim Wenders, left, and Koji Yakusho pose for photographers at this year's Cannes Film FestivalVianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

It is a quietly captivating film about an aging toilet cleaner in Tokyo, and both Wenders and Yakusho break your heart and put it back together again with a unique and delicate potency. It sees Wenders taking a lifetime of wisdom and distilling it into a meditative tale about the joys of routinely life. As if that wasn’t enough to get you excited, the whole beautiful and poignant character study is soundtracked to the sounds of Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Nina Simone.

As well as showing a retrospective of his impressive filmography, the Festival Lumière is also showing the avant-premiere of Room 999, a spiritual follow-up to Wenders’ 1982 documentary Room 666. Wenders asked 16 of his fellow directors to speak on the future of cinema, resulting in the film Room 666. 40 years later, director Lubna Playoust asks a new generation of filmmakers the same question: Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?

So. Many. Guests.

Jonathan Glazer will be in attendence for the screening of his Cannes winning film The Zone of Interest
Jonathan Glazer will be in attendence for the screening of his Cannes winning film The Zone of InterestA24

Not that Wenders will be making the trip to Lyon on his lonesome...

As is their custom, the festival has invited a wealth of prestigious guests, honouring their careers with tributes, presentations of their films, public meetings, previews and masterclasses.

These include American iconoclast Wes Anderson (with screenings of six of his films, including the wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel and his latest, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, happening alongside a masterclass you won’t want to miss); Terry Gilliam, the ex-Monty Python and celebrated director of Brazil, who will be presenting a restored version of his brilliant sci-fi gem 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt; Marisa Paredes, one of Spain’s greatest actresses and one of Pedro Almodóvar's muses, having starred for the director in High Heels, The Flower of My Secret and one of his greatest films, All About My Mother.

Other big names we’re hoping to bump into are Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Under The Skin), who will present his Cannes-winning film The Zone of Interest – without a doubt one of our top picks of the festival; Alice Rohrwacher, bringing her superb Cannes-competing film La Chimera to Lyon's screens; Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants), who will be presenting his new film Winter Break; French actress Karin Viard (Jalouse, L’Origine du monde); and Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Roma), who returns to Lyon for a tribute to Swiss filmmaker Alain Tanner (Charles mort ou vif, La Salamandre).

Dizzy yet?

You should check out the veritable delight that the screening line-up...

Nine days of yesterday and today’s cinema

Usually for film festival previews, it’s relatively easy to single out a select few recommendations form a line-up, but Festival Lumière has once again made it a blissful nightmare, with their labyrinthine program spoiling the expected 200,000 punters when it comes to screenings and special events.

Over the course of nine days in over 60 venues, more than 400 screenings will take place, striking the perfect balance between eagerly-awaited 2023 big hitters and a rich selection of heritage films – considering the festival has built up quite the reputation as the place to be if you want to catch some restored classics on the big screen.

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For its 15th edition, the Lumière Festival has renewed its commitment and support for the cinema of yesterday and today, by paying tribute to its history and celebrating its diversity, bringing together all the players involved in its preservation and vitality. The Lumière Classics label was created to showcase the year's finest restorations of films from the 20th century classics and support their (re)discovery.

So, daunting though the task may be, Euronews Culture have got you covered with some tips... 

From 2023 titles to more obscure gems waiting to be discovered, masterclasses and cinema concerts, here are our unmissable events of 2023’s festival.

Wim for the Win

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The photos of Wim Wenders
The photos of Wim WendersInstitut Lumiere

On top of his masterclass at the Théâtre des Célestins and his career retrospective, the Festival Lumière are treating attendees to three special photo exhibitions by the filmmaker. 'Wim Wenders: Arrêt sur image' is a selection of filmograms from movies restored by the Wim Wenders Foundation; 'Lieux Insolites' presents snaps from the famous exhibition 'Places Strange and Quiet'; and finally, 'Une Fois' is a series of picture stories from Wenders’ book "Once- Photographs by Wim Wenders", a stunning collection - with two additional photos unveiled here for the first time. Don’t miss out.

Documentaries on cinema

This year’s edition sees a selection of never-before-seen documentaries to better deep dive into the history of cinema. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on Cinema Has Been My True Love: The Work and Times of Lynda Myles by Mark Cousins, chronicling the career of the celebrated programmer, as well as a series of biography docs like Eric Paccoud’s James Stewart, l’ami Américain, Jean-Christophe Rosé’s Fellini, confidences retrouvées, and Clara Kuperberg and Julia Kuperberg’s Dorothy Arzner, A Pioneer in Hollywood. On the strength of their 2015 doc The Women Who Run Hollywood, about the forgotten women of cinema, their newest doc should be a highlight of the festival.

The return of Miyazaki

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The Boy and the Heron
The Boy and the HeronInstitut Lumiere

This one is a big get for the festival and a hot ticket to say the least. Hayao Miyazaki is the co-founder of one of Japan’s most commercially and critically successful animation companies, Studio Ghibli. Founded in 1985, Miyazaki has directed many genre-defining films including My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the Oscar winning Spirited Away. Now, the 82-year-old animator and filmmaker has returned with what is purported to be his final film, The Boy and the Heron. It has already opened in Japan but this avant-premiere is one of the few world previews, and not one to miss.

Come to the Dark Side

Every year, the festival commandeers the huge Halle Tony Garnier for a themed evening of back-to-back screenings for a whole night. This year, it’s Star Wars. As part of Disney's 100th anniversary celebrations, audiences will get to discover on a giant screen, in restored prints, George Lucas' original trilogy preceded by the excellent Rogue One. There’ll be entertainment, fancy dress, catering, a dormitory behind the screen for those who lack of a faith we find disturbing (to misquote the saga’s most treasured athsmatic villain) and complimentary breakfast for those who manage to make it through all four films. May the force (and caffeine) be with you.

Cult movies

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The "Cultes!" Series is a must for all fans of cult 90s and 00s films, with films like The Silence of the Lambs, Gladiator, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Mad Max: Fury Road, all back on the big screen this edition.

Silence is golden

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
The Cabinet of Dr CaligariInstitut Lumiere

Like last year, the festival’s celebration of silent cinema is of particular interest, with a selection of cine-concerts accompanied by the Orchestre national de Lyon. This year, don’t miss out on the rare copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 The Manxman, Yasujiro Ozu’s 1933 silent gangster film Dragnet Girl, and the burlesque treasures of the Keaton Project restorations. As for Robert Wiene’s masterpiece of German Expressionism The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, well we can’t think of a single reason why you’d want to skip that one with a live orchestra...

Scorsese’s Killers

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After its Cannes debut, Lumière has nabbed one of the rare premieres of Martin Scorsese’s new film before it heads to streaming this month. Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert DeNiro, is based on the 2017 non-fiction book "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI" by David Grann. Scorsese’s latest tells the true story of exploitation and the decimation of the Indigenous people of America by those hellbent on taking their wealth through inheritance. It’s bound to be a frontrunner for awards season, so don’t miss out on the chance to see it on the biggest screen possible.

The power of Christ compels you

The Exorcist
The ExorcistWarner Bros.

Finally, we couldn’t not include the screening of the late William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Screening as part of the ‘Our 15 Years’ section, which celebrates the films that have marked the history of the Festival Lumière (which also includes this year Scarecrow by Jerry Schatzberg and 1900 by Bernardo Bertolucci), the Director’s Cut version of The Exorcist will be shown. The perfect way to commemorate the work of the director, who died this year, as well as celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest films of all time. It certainly beats going to spend your hard-earned cash on the new sequel / reboot The Exorcist: Believer, which is all kinds of rubbish.  

So, get thee to Lyon, make your picks, and good luck securing some of these hot tickets. If you don’t manage to nab your preferred screening, fear not - considering the diverse program and the treat that is the 5th “Salon du DVD”, the DVD market at the festival village, you won’t find it hard to find a screening, event or goodie that’ll make your festival.

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The Festival Lumière takes place in Lyon from Saturday 14 to Sunday 22 October. The opening night takes place tomorrow at the Halle Tony Garnier. Check out thefull programme here.

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