Running May 16 through May 27, the 76th edition of the most prestigious festival in the film world unveiled a stacked competition slate that included the latest work by world-renowned auteurs, an array of splashy summer releases, and buzzworthy titles that are already shaping up to be huge awards contenders next fall.
In the blockbuster studio front, the Croisette saw the flashy premieres of Pixar’s “Elemental”, and Sam Levingston’s HBO series “The Idol” starring Lily-Rose Depp and The Weeknd. The festival also had a chance to bestow Harrison Ford with an honorary Palme d’Or as he picked up his iconic whip and fedora one last time in the fifth and supposedly final installment of the Indiana Jones series.
Martin Scorsese attended the glamorous seaside resort for the first time since 1976 to kick off proceedings with the hotly tipped “Killers of the Flower Moon”, while Cannes mainstays Wes Anderson, Aki Kaurismäki, Todd Haynes, Ken Loach, Michel Gondry, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Wim Wenders, and Pedro Almodóvar all turned up with marquee titles of their own. The jury’s nine-member panel, presided by provocateur par excellence Ruben Östlund, ultimately gave the coveted top prize to Justine Triet’s whodunit “Anatomy of a Fall”, while Quentin Tarantino made a brief appearance to introduce the 1977 revenge flick “Rolling Thunder” and tease his forthcoming film.
With the awards handed out, the red carpet all rolled up, and a wide-ranging assortment of titles to look forward to in 2023, here’s a rundown of Cannes releases that you should take interest in.
1. The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer)
“Under the Skin” is a tough act to follow, but maverick director Jonathan Glazer (who hasn’t lost his touch despite a decade-long hiatus) seems to have pulled it off with “The Zone of Interest”.
Loosely adapted from Martin Amis’ novel of the same name, Glazer’s Holocaust drama received this year’s Grand Prix and should challenge the notion, widely attributed to Truffaut, that there’s no such thing as an anti-war film. Without ever feeling the need to show any atrocities firsthand, “Zone of Interest” weaves a chilling meditation on the nature of evil through the domestic life of Nazi officer Rudolf Höss, who spends quality time with his family in the Polish countryside—merely a hundred meters and one barbed wire away from the extermination camp he supervises. In a genre where most entries are either heavier on the technical side or hunting for easy scares, Glazer’s latest experiment—something of a cross between Terrence Malick and Michael Haneke—is disarming in how it merely hints at the horror lurking beneath its benign surface.
2. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)
It’s been a long, bumpy road to get to Martin Scorsese’s $200-million period epic (in fact, when it releases in October, it will be close to two years since it wrapped production), but it looks like a worthwhile one. Despite screening out of competition, the hottest ticket in town belonged to “Killers of the Flower Moon”—a sprawling true-crime thriller starring Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone that explores a series of murders of the oil-rich Osage Nation people in 1920s Oklahoma.
The tentpole Apple TV+ production was greeted with a whopping nine-minute standing ovation at the Palais, and for the looks of it, seems like just the kind of film worth getting sore palms for. Clocking in at 206 minutes, the film spins a web of greed, wealth and deceit inside the framework of a 20th century conspiracy thriller that captures America’s rotten past yet speaks to the country’s present. There are certain filmmakers you simply stop everything for, and when it’s good ol’ Martin at the helm, you pull the brakes harder than ever. October can’t arrive quickly enough.
3. May December (Todd Haynes)
If one were to point to a contemporary American director who has most consistently swirled around the contours of melodrama, perhaps no one would be a better choice than Todd Haynes.
Though often touted as the spiritual heir to Douglas Sirk for the way he juggles heightened pastiche with clear-eyed social commentary, Haynes conjured the ghost of Ingmar Bergman for his latest award hopeful. “May December” marks the director’s fifth collaboration with Julianne Moore, who delivers a solid turn as Gracie, a convicted former teacher who became the subject of a national tabloid scandal decades ago after having an affair with one of her high school students. Natalie Portman plays a hotshot Hollywood actress who wants to spend some time with Gracie in preparation for her role in a film adaptation.
The film, which was picked up by Netflix shortly after the festival, may read like “Persona” meets “Sunset Boulevard”, with a bit of Coen Brothers campiness sprinkled in for good measure. If somehow that doesn’t sound like a title worth seeking out, expect both Portman and Moore to get heavy Oscar buzz next fall for their winning performances.
4. Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki)
Many claim that once you’ve seen one Aki Kaurismäki movie, you’ve seen them all. Still, how can we resist a new offering by the Finnish legend if he’s yet to disappoint us in the past forty years? Those who already abide by the church of Kaurismäki will find in “Fallen Leaves” something of a feel-good coda to his so-called ‘proletariat trilogy’. The rightful winner of this year’s Jury Prize, infused as it is with deadpan humor and wry wit, is surprisingly lighthearted, poignant and easily the funniest film in the entire 2023 slate.
Set against the backdrop of the looming Ukrainian invasion, the story follows the unlikely relationship that blossoms between two down-on-their-luck drifters: one a supermarket worker who’s recently been fired for stealing sandwiches, the other a security guard with something of a drinking problem. Minimalist sets, quotidian scenes, deadpan wit… Only Kaurismäki could give us a meet-cute romance where two lost souls find solace by going to the cinema to watch a Jim Jarmusch-directed zombie flick together.
5. Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet)
The wheels of justice grind slowly but steadily in Justine Triet’s riveting courtroom drama, which was picked by NEON and made the French filmmaker only the third woman ever to take home the top honors in the history of the competition after Jane Campion and Julia Ducournau.
Not a moment goes by in the two-and-a-half hour “Anatomy of a Fall” where you’re not second-guessing the presumed innocence or guilt of German novelist Sandra (a career-best Sandra Hüller, who also delighted pundits in “The Zone of Interest”), forced to defend herself in court when she becomes the main suspect in her husband’s murder. The genius of Trier’s icy drama lies not only in the fact that it keeps wrongfooting you at every turn, but more so in that it challenges notions of truth and justice by allowing each viewer to draw their own conclusions. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find an incisive deconstruction of a dysfunctional marriage and childhood trauma delivered under the guise of a Hitchcockian legal thriller. Not to be missed.