Although none of the films in the running for the Palme d’Or has yet really capsized the hearts of festival-goers, it is clear that halfway through, the competition is in good shape, even if it must more often than in turn unfold in the shadow of the productions selected on the sidelines of the race.
In the normal course of things, the feature films selected in official competition get the most media attention. Based on what happened during the first seven days of this 76th Festival, 2023 is not a “normal” year in Cannes.
The vampirization of out-of-competition films began on opening night — how could it be otherwise? — with the presentation of Jeanne du Barry and the controversy surrounding this new historical drama by Maïwenn. The return of Johnny Depp in front of the cameras has generated a debate from which the actor seems to have emerged victorious in terms of media rehabilitation, despite the criticism.
The next day, it was Pedro Almodóvar’s turn to create the event with the presentation of Strange Way of Life, a very successful queer western lasting 31 minutes, with Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke. The presence of the Spanish master practically relegated to the background the first two feature films of the competition presented on the same day: Monster, by Hirokazu Kore-eda, and The Return, by Catherine Corsini. In the latter case, the allegations of harassment and misconduct, which resulted in the selection’s title being suspended pending an investigation, were discussed the following day, during a press conference where the filmmaker denied everything.
Indiana Jones arrived on Saturday in a climate of great excitement and excitement, with Harrison Ford very moved to have won a surprise Palme d’Or. Too bad Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny didn’t measure up. On the aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, James Mangold’s film has a rating of 52% with 31 reviews recorded. On the other hand, Martin Scorsese did not disappoint with Killers of the Flower Moon, his 206-minute fresco with Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro.
With such giants of cinema on the red carpet, it was more difficult for the feature films competing for the Palme d’Or to get noticed. Since Monday, however, a new leader has been appointed by international critics contributing to the British specialist newspaper Screen and French critics listed by Le film français: Anatomy of a fall. Starring the remarkable Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud and Samuel Theis, Justine Triet’s forensic drama takes the form of a gripping investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fatal fall of a man who threw himself upstairs superior of the winter chalet which he occupied not far from Grenoble. Added to the circumstances of what could just as easily be an accident, suicide or murder is the ruthless dissection of a couple’s relationship. Anatomy of a Fall, for which we hope for a distribution agreement in Quebec, is one of the rare films that won unanimous support during this first week of the festival.
May December, a film by Todd Haynes in which Natalie Portman plays an actress who settles down for a while with the woman she is soon to play in a biographical drama inspired by the latter’s life, was also very well received. Just like The Zone of Interest, a chilling drama by Jonathan Glazer in which a Nazi commander in charge of the operations of the Auschwitz camp dreams of his little suburban life with his family while the gas chambers belch their smoke right next door. Let’s join this front runner with Dry Herbs, another of these feature films based essentially on the quality of the dialogues, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, a filmmaker always offering remarkable intellectual exercises. Let’s also not forget Aki Kaurismäki’s charming and nostalgic film, Dead Leaves.
That said, the games are far from over. The last eight feature films in the official competition will be presented by Saturday. There are also new offerings from big names like Wes Anderson (Asteroid City), Marcho Bellochio (The Abduction), Nanni Moretti (Towards a Bright Future), Wim Wenders (Perfect Days), Catherine Breillat (Last Summer) and Ken Loach (The Old Oak). The latter could also become the very first filmmaker to receive a third Palme d’or, 17 years after that obtained thanks to The Wind that Shakes the Barley (The wind rises) and 7 after that which earned him I, Daniel Blake.
The jury, chaired by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, will deliver its verdict on Saturday.