Palais des Festivals, Cannes

Source: Hubert Boesl

‘Palais des Festivals, Cannes’

The opening film of Cannes 2023 is Maiwenn’s Jeanne du Barry, a period drama that delves into French history, was shot in Versailles and sees its US star Johnny Depp speaking French.

Un Certain Regard will also open with a French title, Thomas Cailley’s Le Règne Animal, while the Competition refreshingly feaures two films by female French filmmakers, Catherine Breillat and Justine Triet, and the new film from Vietnamese-born, France-based Tran Anh Hung, 

Breillat’s rise-from-retirement film is Last Summer, while Tran’s title is a period romance called The Passion Of Dodin Bouffant, starring Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel. Triet’s Anatomy Of A Fall is described as a Hitchcockian procedural thriller. 

Notably absent are a slew of long-rumoured, high-profile titles from some of the (male) big beasts of French cinema.

Bertrand Bonello, Michel Gondry, Bruno Dumont, Robin Campillo, Catherine Corsini and Quentin Dupieux all have upcoming films that are reportedly ready to go and seemed shoo-ins for selection.

All eyes are now on whether any will be late additions to the Competition – the French industry tends to enter its films for submission at the last minute so it may be that Thierry Fremaux and his team have not yet seen them – or if instead they have been snagged by either Directors’ Fortnight or Critics’ Week. 

Bonello has been in Cannes six times and his new film, fittingly calledThe Beast, stars Cannes darling Léa Seydoux; Gondry has The Book Of Solutions, his return after a nearly decade-long big-screen break with a film featuring an all-star French cast including Pierre Niney, Blanche Gardin and Vincent Elbaz; and Dumont’s The Empire unites three of France’s leading ladies – Camille Cottin, Lyna Khoudri and Ana Maria Vartolomei – alongside Fabrice Luchini for a “galactic comedy”.

Campillo seemed poised to return to the Croisette following 2017 Competition title BPM (Beats Per Minute) with Red Island, which is set in 1970s Madagascar on one of the last French military bases abroad and stars rising actor Nadia Tereszkiewicz.

French master of the absurd Dupieux is a Cannes regular so the absence so far of his offbeat Salvador Dali biopic Daaaali!, featuring a cast of top French talent including Edouard Baer, Gilles Lellouche, Niney, Anais de Moustier and Alain Chabat, is also surprising.

Other French possibilities that could still bring some Gallic glamour to the Croisette include Yann Gozlan’s Visions starring Diane Kruger and Mathieu Kassovitz, and Yossi Aviram’s Franco-Israeli film There Is No Shadow In The Desert, co-written with Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi.

Also conspicuously absent is Woody Allen’s French-language feature Coup de Chance, which Fremaux told Screen he has not yet seen.

Some high-profile new French films may simply not be ready. Ladj Ly’s Les Indesirables will be released in November in France, for example. 

A handful of French titles are set to premiere out of Competition. Just Philippot will get a Midnight Screening for his second feature Acide starring Guillaume Canet and Laetitia Dosch in a story about a teenage girl and her parents on the verge of separation as clouds of devastating acid rain fall on France. Martin Provost’s Bonnard, Pierre And Marthe and Katell Quillévéré’s Le Temps D’Aimer will both screen in Cannes Premiere.

Critics’ Week will unveil its line-up on April 17 while Directors’ Fortnight will be announced on April 18.