(Cannes) In a festival that likes to maintain its own mythology, Catherine Deneuve had the honor of officially opening an edition where the opening film brings back a page of French history thanks to Maïwenn and a certain Johnny Depp …

It could only be her. Her playful and casual air, captured in 1968 by photographer Jack Garofalo while she was filming La chamade (Alain Cavalier), radiates from everywhere this mythical place that is Cannes, where the magic of cinema and those who do. There was also something quite surreal in watching Catherine Deneuve climb the steps at the opening ceremony without even looking up to look at the huge posters overlooking all the facades of the Palais des Festivals, which bring us back to this moment bright from 1968.

In the company of Michael Douglas, winner of an honorary Palme d’or, Catherine Deneuve officially declared the 76th Cannes Film Festival open, not without having previously recited the passage of a poem written by Lessia Oukraïnka, a Ukrainian author. Under these circumstances, it was quite natural that the ceremony be led by Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Catherine Deneuve, on a stage still permanently overlooked by this poster recalling a moment that occurred 55 years ago.

That said, all eyes were on one man before the ceremony: Johnny Depp. Those who wondered about the presence or the kind of reception reserved for the one who made his first real public outing on Tuesday since the highly publicized trial against his former wife Amber Heard quickly got their answer. The actor was warmly applauded upon his arrival. Probably also to dispel rumors of disagreement with the director who ran during filming, the interpreter of Louis XV in Jeanne du Barry, selected at the opening, showed solidarity with Maïwenn by taking a seat right next to her. in the Grand Théâtre Lumière, not far from Xavier Dolan, a guest often shown on camera.

After the introductions of the members of the jury and its president, Ruben Östlund, the ceremony ended with a quote that Chiara Mastroianni borrowed from the American filmmaker George Cukor: “Cinema is like love. When it’s good, it’s great, when it’s not good, it’s not bad anyway! »

So, “great” or “not bad anyway”, this Jeanne du Barry? This sixth feature film by Maïwenn as a director, which she had dreamed of since that day in 2006 when she saw Asia Argento embody the character in Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette, is a beautiful classic film. Taking this time a very different approach from those of her previous feature films, from Polisse to ADN via Mon roi, Maïwenn offers herself this time a luxurious period biographical drama, a “costume” film partly shot in Versailles , built around the journey of a “scandalous” woman, too free for her time.

The director visibly takes pleasure in embodying herself this commoner who has managed to attract the attention – and the affection – of King Louis XV, thus provoking the hostility of the court towards her, seeing in her only a vulgar “street girl” descended from the plebs. Told in the form of a tale by a voice-over, the narrative proves more solid – and interesting – in its first part, when it describes the unlikely rise of this courtesan to her status as a favorite of Louis XV. With, as a bonus, a critical – and often funny – look at the habits and customs of the monarchy. The second part, which echoes his downfall after the death of the king, is more emphatic and forces more emotion.

Visually splendid, Jeanne du Barry, presented out of competition, is also marked by the presence of Johnny Depp. The American actor delivers his first line in the 29th minute of the feature film and does not do too badly in terms of pronunciation, although, of course, the accent is not completely erased. That said, we have obviously reduced his dialogue to the bare minimum and he never launches into long flights where he could have gotten tangled up. Since he is one of those actors who can express everything with a simple look, his magnetic presence on the screen remains intact.

During a short statement made on the red carpet for the benefit of France 2, official broadcaster of the Cannes Film Festival ceremonies, the actor explained that, although not really fluent in the French language, he was able to practice without too much trouble considering the historical context. “I was able to get closer to 18th century French thanks to a coach. Maïwenn is a powerful director. Really. »

Although Jeanne du Barry will be released this Wednesday in French theaters, we still do not know if a distribution agreement has been reached with a Quebec or North American distributor. File to follow…