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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Cannes 2023: The films we’re excited about seeing


Scarlett Johansson in a scene from “Asteroid City.”

By Kyle Buchanan


Wes Anderson’s films have premiered at a wide variety of festivals, but after “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012), “The French Dispatch” (2021) and his upcoming ensemble comedy “Asteroid City,” Cannes Film Festival is the one he keeps coming back to. Last week, I asked Anderson what he finds so compelling about a debut on the Croisette.


“The reason to go to Cannes, I think, is because they said yes,” he deadpanned. “After that, there isn’t really much to contemplate.”


Well, there’s a little more to it than that, Anderson admitted: For cinema lovers, there is no holier pilgrimage to make than to Cannes, where movies are treated with the utmost reverence and routinely given marathon standing ovations.


It is a place where great auteurs have been canonized, like Martin Scorsese, who won the Palme d’Or in 1976 for “Taxi Driver” and will return this year with his new feature “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and Quentin Tarantino, a Palme winner (for “Pulp Fiction” in 1994) and Cannes habitué who’ll be back at the fest this year for a wide-ranging conversation that may touch on his upcoming final film.


“I look at Cannes in relation to the other movies I know showed there, and I feel lucky enough to be included in the program that debuted those films,” Anderson said. “For me, it’s a chance to be involved in this movie history, which I love.”


A Cannes launch can be awfully expensive for a studio to bankroll, since the airfare, star entourages and five-star hotels alone all add up. Still, the return on investment can be major. Last year, “Top Gun: Maverick” launched with a fawning Tom Cruise summit and sent fighter jets flying over the south of France, while Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” threw a rock concert on the beach where drones traced Elvis Presley’s silhouette in the sky. Both films leveraged their splashy debuts to become some of the best-performing global hits of the year, and were nominated for the best-picture Oscar, to boot.


This year, several star-driven films will attempt to capitalize on a Cannes bow, including “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” which is being billed as Harrison Ford’s final appearance in his most iconic role. Can it overcome the tepid response to the last sequel, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and the substitution of James Mangold (“Ford v Ferrari”) for Steven Spielberg as director of the series? At least the addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, in her most high-profile role since “Fleabag,” will add a welcome jolt to the franchise.


Director Todd Haynes, who premiered “Carol” at Cannes, returns to the festival with another female-driven two-hander: “May December,” which stars Julianne Moore as a teacher whose scandalous relationship with a former student is scrutinized by a movie star (Natalie Portman) preparing to play the teacher in a film. Other star-heavy films include “The New Boy,” featuring Cate Blanchett as a nun in her first role since “Tár,” and “Firebrand,” with Jude Law as Henry VIII and Alicia Vikander as his last wife, Katherine Parr.


And then there are “Asteroid City” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the fest’s two most anticipated premieres. The former takes place at a 1950s retreat for space-obsessed youngsters and stars Anderson staples including Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, as well as new recruit Tom Hanks, about whom Anderson said, “I couldn’t have had a better time working with anybody.” Scorsese’s Apple-backed film charts the mysterious murders of the Osage tribe in the 1920s and will bring stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro to the red carpet.


(Still, weep for what might have been: Greta Gerwig’s candy-colored July release “Barbie” will skip an early premiere at Cannes, depriving us of a red-carpet fantasy to trump all others.)


In recent years, the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or award has often gone to a film with breakout-hit potential, like “Parasite” and “Triangle of Sadness.” The director of the latter film, Ruben Ostlund, will preside over this year’s competition jury, a group that includes Brie Larson and Paul Dano, and they’ll be picking their favorite from an auteur-heavy lineup that includes several former Palme winners.


Among them are Wim Wenders, who took the Palme for “Paris, Texas” and returns with “Perfect Days,” about a Tokyo toilet cleaner, and Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose new film “Monster” is the first film he has shot in Japan since his Palme winner “Shoplifters.” No director has ever taken the Palme three times, though Ken Loach could this year, if his new working-class drama “The Old Oak” proves as acclaimed as “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and “I, Daniel Blake.”


This year’s Cannes has its fair share of long films — “Occupied City,” Steve McQueen’s documentary about Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, runs 4 hours and 6 minutes — but not every buzzy premiere will be feature-length. The fest will also premiere shorts directed by Pedro Almodóvar (“A Strange Way of Life”) and the late Jean-Luc Godard (“Phony Wars”), while launching “The Idol,” an already-controversial HBO series from “Euphoria” mastermind Sam Levinson starring Abel “the Weeknd” Tesfaye.


And although the festival will offer G-rated pleasures in the form of Pixar’s new film “Elemental,” it wouldn’t be Cannes without a few envelope-pushers. Keep an eye on Catherine Breillat, whose sexually explicit filmography (“Fat Girl,” “Romance”) gets a new entry with “Last Summer,” about a lawyer who falls for her teenage stepson.


Then there’s the film I’m most curious about: “The Zone of Interest,” an Auschwitz-set drama from director Jonathan Glazer. Rumor has it that Cannes passed on Glazer’s audacious “Under the Skin” back in 2013 and was eager to make up for that mistake. Since Glazer’s films (“Birth” and “Sexy Beast”) are infrequent but stunning, a new project from the director is reason enough to say yes to Cannes — and after that, there isn’t really much to contemplate.

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