Cannes 2023 Roundup
Matthew Bowden breaks down everything you may have missed from the 2023 Cannes Film Festival- from Scorsese, to the Palme d’Or winner.
The Cannes Film Festival is arguably the most notorious, prestigious and pretentious of the “Big Five” film festivals (the others being Sundance, Berlin, Venice and Toronto). Whether it is the glamorous setting on the French Riviera, or the plethora of classic films that first found their footing here, such as La Dolce Vita, Taxi Driver and Pulp Fiction to name a few, Cannes has always held a significant spot in the hearts and minds of film fans looking to unlock their true, snooty cineaste.
Its role over the years has been a tricky one to pin down. Very much the domain of European art-house cinema until the 1970s, the last 50 or so years has seen a constant shift between promoting underappreciated international films- that otherwise would have likely flown under the radar- and recognising a new renaissance in American independent filmmaking. Through the late 80s and 1990s, the festival became slightly weaponised by independent film company Miramax and its disgraced head Harvey Weinstein as a stepping stone to Oscars glory – Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Pulp Fiction being two notable examples. At this moment in time though, Cannes has displayed its aptitude for diversifying the industry in terms of both global consciousness and genre, with grand prizes being awarded to thrillers, body horrors, as well as the satirical black comedies of Ruben Ostlund.
Cannes has displayed its aptitude for diversifying the industry in terms of both global consciousness and genre…
The big stories dominating Cannes 2023 was the reappearance of Johnny Depp post-Amber Heard trials in the festival’s opener Jeanne du Barry, where he plays Louis XIV. Banished from Hollywood but, slightly controversially, accepted with open arms in the circles of French cinema, Depp’s presence so soon after the long, drawn-out complexities of his defamation suit feels somewhat indigestible, and will no doubt stir up more debates about how easy it is to separate the person from the performer.
Other major talking points include the return of two cinematic behemoths: Indiana Jones and Martin Scorsese. The fifth (and surely final) instalment of the famous franchise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny made its cinematic debut out of the competition and sees Harrison Ford donning the famous hat and whip again, alongside exciting cast additions like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and the seemingly always villainous Mads Mikkelsen. Critical reception has been, unfortunately, mixed at best for Indy’s last dance, with people questioning the necessity of this finale (perhaps as an attempted antidote to the horror-show that was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!) as well as whether it can stand out from the dense volume of action-adventure-franchise-sequel fare that seems to be saturating cinema at the moment. The film arrives in UK cinemas on June 28th, apparently two days earlier than its global release, and despite the noise, I’m going in with the hope that this swashbuckling cinematic icon can charm me one more time.
Other major talking points include the return of two cinematic behemoths: Indiana Jones and Martin Scorsese.
Much more optimistically, Scorsese’s latest feature Killers of the Flower Moon played to a rapturous nine-minute standing ovation, also out of competition, and has been widely considered to be one of his darkest and most cerebral works by those lucky enough to have seen it. It has all the right ingredients: a stellar cast including Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, as well as a niche but historically charged subject matter which the veteran director is clearly passionate about – concerning the atrocities committed to members of the Native American Osage tribe after oil is discovered on their land. This one requires a bit more of a wait, not reaching the public until late October, but something tells me that it’s going to be worth it.
The films competing for awards at Cannes are always slightly more obscure and this year is no different. Headlining the pack is Wes Anderson’s sci-fi comedy Asteroid City, due to be released on June 23rd, which has been recognised as a return to form for the quirky indie-darling director after his 2021 movie French Dispatch got a mixed, lukewarm reception. Like most Anderson films, a brief synopsis appears quite difficult, but it seems to have that perfect, idiosyncratic balance of kids acting like adults and adults acting like kids, which has served the director well in films like Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr Fox. Yet it missed out on the big prizes, which again at Cannes went to films and directors that would naturally incite a quizzical look from the average cinemagoer.
The Palme d’Or (equivalent to Best Picture at the Oscars) went to Justine Triet’s courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall, whose credentials have been further strengthened by comparison to classics such as Witness for the Prosecution. The film that seemed to stir the most consistently visceral interest from Cannes participants on social media was Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest, which itself was successful in winning the Grand Prix. Glazer helmed, in my opinion, one of the most exciting and subversive films in recent memory with his 2014 sci-fi thriller Under the Skin, and if it comes close to replicating that film, it will surely get a lot of people talking.