Among the surprises Iris Knobloch, the first female and non-French president of the Cannes Film Festival, and artistic director Thierry Frémaux sprang when they announced the lineup for the seventy-sixth edition in Paris on Thursday morning: Two filmmakers, neither of whose names came up all that often in the flurries of speculation and rumors leading up to the announcement, will each have two films at the festival.
Wang Bing’s documentary Youth, premiering in competition, chronicles the lives of teenagers from the rural Chinese province of Yunnan who cross the country to take factory jobs in Shanghai. Wang’s Man in Black, a record of one man’s experience of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, will be presented as a Special Screening. Wim Wenders, too, has one film in competition—Perfect Days, which was shot in Japan—and a Special Screening, Anselm (Das Rauschen der Zeit), a 3D portrait of German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer.
As he does every year, Frémaux promised to add a few titles in the coming days and weeks, but for the moment, nineteen films are set to compete for the Palme d’Or. Six of them—thirty-two percent, a record for the festival—are directed by women, and Maïwenn directs the opening night film, premiering out of competition. In Jeanne du Barry,Maïwenn plays a working-class woman who becomes a court favorite of King Louis XV (Johnny Depp).
Ten years after Abuse of Weakness, Catherine Breillat finally returns with Last Summer, an erotic thriller starring Léa Drucker as a happily married Parisian lawyer who strikes up an affair with her husband’s teenaged son from a previous marriage. Alice Rohrwacher’s La chimera stars Josh O’Connor as an English archaeologist who falls in with a band of tomb raiders in the 1980s. The cast also features Isabella Rossellini and Alba Rohrwacher.
In Jessica Hausner’s Club Zero, the students of a new teacher at an elite boarding school strive to eat less—up to the point of not eating at all. Justine Triet reunites with Sybil star Sandra Hüller for Anatomy of a Fall, the story of a German writer suspected of killing her husband. Kaouther Ben Hania follows up on The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020), the first Tunisian film to be nominated for a Best International Feature Film Oscar, with Four Daughters, starring Hend Sabry as the girls’ mother. And Senegalese writer and director Ramata-Toulaye Sy is the only filmmaker with a debut feature in competition. In Banel & Adama, the love between two teens is tested by the traditions of a small village in northern Senegal.
Just about everyone expected Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, whose stories unfold during a Junior Stargazer convention taking place in a desert town out west in 1955, to premiere in Cannes. The invitation extended to Todd Haynes’s May December, though, is a pleasant surprise. Natalie Portman plays a famous actress who disrupts the lives she’s researching, a couple (Julianne Moore and Charles Melton) whose marriage made tabloid headlines twenty years ago.
First announced in the summer of 2018, Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, an adaptation of Martin Amis’s 2014 novel about a Nazi officer falling for the wife of a camp commandant in Auschwitz, is finally set. Ken Loach, who has won the Palme d’Or twice—for The Wind That Shakes the Barley in 2006 and for I, Daniel Blake in 2016—will return with The Old Oak. Loach’s twenty-eighth feature takes its title from the name of a pub in a declining village in northeastern England, where the regulars have mixed feelings about the sudden influx of Syrian refugees.
When the Film Stage put together a list of its most-anticipated films of 2023, contributors placed Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses at the top. Having spent four years in an outpost in Anatolia, a young teacher hopes to land a position in Istanbul. Firebrand, the first feature in English from Karim Aïnouz, stars Alicia Vikander as Katherine Parr and Jude Law as Henry VIII.
After winning the Palme d’Or for Shoplifters (2018), Hirokazu Kore-eda shot The Truth (2019) in France and Broker (2022) in South Korea. Monster, in which a young boy’s strange behavior alarms his mother, sees him back in Japan, and the score is composed by the late Ryuichi Sakamoto. Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel star in Tran Anh Hung’s The Passion of Dodin Bouffant. Based on the 1924 novel by Marcel Rouff, the story, set in 1885, centers on the romantic relationship between a gourmet and his cook.
When he won a Silver Bear for directing The Other Side of Hope at the Berlinale in 2017, Aki Kaurismäki hinted that he might retire. He’s back, though, with Fallen Leaves. “Tragicomedy seems to be my genre,” said Kaurismäki when he announced the project last summer. “I like to return to the themes of my youth and talk about the little man’s struggle against the faceless machine—and himself—all the while not forgetting about the humor.”
Marco Bellocchio’s Rapito is inspired by the true story of Edgardo Mortara, a six-year-old boy taken from his Jewish parents in 1857 and raised as a Catholic under the protection of Pope Pius IX. Margherita Buy, Barbara Bobulova, and Mathieu Amalric star in Nanni Moretti’s The Sun of the Future, a circus story that spans from the 1950s to the ’70s.
Un Certain Regard
Eight of the seventeen films selected for the Un Certain Regard program dedicated to emerging talents are first features. Adèle Exarchopoulos, Romain Duris, and Paul Kircher star in the opening night film, Thomas Cailley’s Le règne animal, which depicts a world in which humans have begun to mutate into other species.
Cate Blanchett produces and stars as a nun in The New Boy, the latest feature from Australian Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton. Life at a remote monastery in the 1940s is thrown off balance by the unexpected arrival of a nine-year-old Aboriginal orphan.
Ten years after winning the Camera d’Or for the best debut feature at the festival with Ilo Ilo, Anthony Chen is bringing his first Mainland Chinese feature, The Breaking Ice. Zhou Dongyu, Liu Haoran, and Qu Chuxiao star as three friends who grow closer over the course of a few short winter days.
In The Delinquents, written and directed by Argentinian filmmaker Rodrigo Moreno, two bank clerks decide to break out of their routine. “Morán dreams up a risky plan to achieve that sense of liberation, even when it implies committing a crime,” Moreno told Cineuropa’s Davide Abbatescianni way back in 2020. “Román is his accessory. The plan comes off successfully. These two men embody a collective fantasy—namely, to break free from the rigors and obligations of one’s working life.”
Mohamed Kordofani will be the first Sudanese filmmaker invited to Cannes. In Goodbye Julia, a woman has covered up a murder and, wracked by guilt, takes the victim’s widow and son into her home. Asmae El Moudir’s search for her true family history in her documentary The Mother of All Lies becomes an investigation into the 1981 Bread Riots in Morocco. Chilean filmmaker Felipe Gálvez, too, explores the dark history of his own country with The Settlers, a fictional feature which revisits the massacre of the Indigenous Onas in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
Monia Chokri, who has appeared in films by Denys Arcand and Xavier Dolan, won the Jury Coup de Coeur when her 2019 film A Brother’s Love premiered in Un Certain Regard. In The Nature of Love, a forty-year-old philosophy professor falls for a handyman. Molly Manning Walker’s How to Have Sex follows three young British women determined to lose their virginity in Mallorca.
Belgian rapper Baloji shot Augure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fifteen years after his mother cast him out because she believed he was a sorcerer, a man and his future wife return to the city of Lubumbashi. Mongolian director Zoljargal Purevdash tells the story of a teenager determined to enter a science competition and win a scholarship in If Only I Could Hibernate.
Out of Competition
Frémaux emphasized that he very much wanted to premiere Killers of the Flower Moon in the Competition, but he hinted that Martin Scorsese didn’t feel it would be quite ready in time. Based on David Grann’s best-selling history of the investigation into the murders of members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma during the 1920s, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, and Lily Gladstone.
Cobweb, the latest feature from Kim Jee-woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird), stars Song Kang Ho as a film director determined to reshoot the ending of a movie shot in the 1970s. Also premiering out of competition are James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and The Idol, a series created by The Weeknd, directed by Sam Levinson, and starring Lily-Rose Depp.
Cannes Premiere and Special Screenings
Close Your Eyes, the first feature directed by Víctor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive) since 1992’s The Quince Tree Sun, is one of four films selected for Cannes Premiere, the program launched in 2021 to siphon off some of what was then a post-pandemic glut of newly completed films. In Close Your Eyes, a television show reopens the case of the strange disappearance of an actor during the shooting of a film in the 1990s.
Neck, rumored to be the last feature from Takeshi Kitano, is based on the multitalented director’s 2019 novel about the assassination of a warlord in 1582. The other two films in the program are Katell Quillévéré’s Le temps d’aimer, which centers on the relationship between a hotel waitress and a wealthy student, and Martin Provost’s Bonnard, Pierre et Marthe, another love story, this one between the soon-to-be-famous painter and his model.
Special Screenings will include Occupied City, Steve McQueen’s study of Amsterdam during the Second World War, and Pictures of Ghosts, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s guide to the cinema palaces of Recife, the Brazilian city where he was born and raised. The three Midnight Screenings will be Kennedy, the latest feature from prolific director, producer, and actor Anurag Kashyap and the only Indian film in this year’s Official Selection; Elias Belkeddar’s gangster comedy, Omar la Fraise; and Just Philippot’s Acid, in which estranged family members are forced to band together in order to survive a catastrophic event.
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