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On paper, the 76th Cannes Film Festival looks like an embarrassment of riches, assembling no shortage of big guns in terms of major-name filmmakers.
Pretty much every list of hotly anticipated titles will be topped by Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, an epic Western crime drama based on David Grann’s nonfiction book about the murder of Indigenous Americans on tribal land in 1920s Oklahoma. Likewise, it seems redundant to include Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, given the legions of fans already jostling to watch Harrison Ford crack the whip one last time in James Mangold’s conclusion of the beloved action-adventure franchise.
New works from celebrated filmmakers are simply too numerous to cram into a rundown of just ten titles, so their absence here should not be misinterpreted as lack of interest.
That includes Ken Loach’s story of tensions caused by the arrival of Syrian refugees in a depressed former mining community, The Old Oak; Wim Wenders’ Japanese-language drama about finding beauty in the everyday world, Perfect Days; Marco Bellocchio’s fictionalized take on a 19th-century religious conflict that turned political, Kidnapped; Takeshi Kitano’s samurai saga Kubi, about an assassination attempt in late 16th century Kyoto; Michel Gondry’s first feature in eight years, The Book of Solutions, a comedy about the creative process starring Pierre Niney; Catherine Breillat’s erotic thriller about an intergenerational romance, Last Summer; and a return after almost two decades by the great Spanish director Victor Erice with Close Your Eyes, which reunites him with Ana Torrent, star of his classic, The Spirit of the Beehive.
While it reportedly runs just a half-hour, Cannes attendees also will be scrambling to see Pedro Almodóvar’s queer Western, Strange Way of Life, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as cowboys whose history generates fresh sparks when they reunite for the first time in 25 years.
The choices that follow are a mix of other directors whose work I’ve loved, making me always curious to see where they go next.
Asteroid City — Wes Anderson
The idiosyncratic world-builder has a history of assembling top ensemble casts, but even by own standards, this tale of a scholarly junior stargazer convention bringing together students and parents from across the country boasts an extraordinary lineup. Set in a fictional American desert town in the mid-1950s (but shot in Spain), it features many Anderson regulars, alongside first-timers including Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Hong Chau and Margot Robbie.
The Breaking Ice — Anthony Chen
The Singaporean director won the 2013 Camera d’Or in Cannes for his achingly tender domestic drama Ilo Ilo. After debuting his first English-language feature, Drift, at Sundance in January, Chen relocates from that film’s Greek island setting to a wintry landscape in China for his second premiere of 2023, about the blossoming relationship of three people in their 20s.
La Chimera — Alice Rohrwacher
Five years after winning best screenplay in Cannes for Happy as Lazzaro, the Italian filmmaker returns with this reflection on our relationship with the afterlife, explored through the intertwined destinies of a band of tomb-robbers, illegally trafficking in ancient finds. Josh O’Connor stars with Isabella Rossellini and the director’s sister and frequent collaborator, Alba Rohrwacher.
Fallen Leaves — Aki Kaurismaki
The six-year gap since the master of Finnish deadpan’s last feature creates excitement around this tragicomedy about a pair of lonely souls who meet one night in Helsinki and take a chance on love, encountering more than their share of obstacles. The melancholy romance is an extension of the working-class trilogy that first put Kaurismaki on the international map: Shadows in Paradise, Ariel and The Match Factory Girl.
Firebrand — Karim Aïnouz
The Brazilian filmmaker has been juggling narrative features with imaginative docs since he first appeared in Cannes with Madame Satã in 2002. His luscious 2019 melodrama The Invisible Life was one of the international Oscar nominators’ most grievous oversights of recent years. Aïnouz’s latest (and his overdue graduation to the main Cannes competition) is a departure into historical drama, starring Alicia Vikander as Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII, played by Jude Law.
May December — Todd Haynes
No American filmmaker has been more inspired by the artful Hollywood melodramas of Douglas Sirk. Haynes’ 10th feature looks like a return to that model, reuniting the director with frequent muse Julianne Moore as a woman whose romance and subsequent marriage to a much younger man, played by Charles Melton, became national tabloid fodder 20 years earlier. The arrival of Natalie Portman as an actress researching a film about their past causes strain as the two women’s personal and professional lives begin to blur.
Monster — Hirokazu Kore-eda
Following The Truth in France and Broker in South Korea, the Japanese humanist’s latest marks his first homeland feature since Shoplifters. One of the stars of that 2018 Palme d’Or winner, Sakura Ando, reunites with the director in this Rashomon-esque story to play a mother confronting her son’s teacher after disturbing charges are made concerning the boy’s behavior. The score was one of the final projects of composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who died in March.
The New Boy — Warwick Thornton
The Indigenous Australian director won Cannes’ Camera d’Or for best first feature in 2009 with Samson & Delilah and confirmed his talent in 2017 with Sweet Country, winning the Special Jury Prize in Venice. His new film, set in the 1940s, follows a 9-year-old Aboriginal orphan boy whose presence disrupts the delicate balance of life in a remote monastery run by an unorthodox nun, played by Cate Blanchett, who also produced.
Occupied City — Steve McQueen
The versatile Brit director follows his remarkable, decades-spanning series of five films set in London’s West Indian community, Small Axe, with a shift into documentary. This sprawling 4-hour study of Amsterdam under Nazi occupation during World War II is being touted as a unique mold-breaker in historical nonfiction filmmaking, viewed through the prism of the Dutch capital in contemporary times, with the subject finding powerful echoes in Covid lockdown.
The Zone of Interest — Jonathan Glazer
With just three previous features — Sexy Beast, Birth and Under the Skin — each one completely distinct in style and tone, plus years of striking music videos, the Brit director has established himself as a boldly original voice. His latest, which stars Toni Erdmann breakout Sandra Hüller, is loosely adapted from the Martin Amis novel of the same name. Set and shot in Auschwitz, it tells the story of a Nazi commandant and his wife striving to create a dream life for their family of a house and garden outside the camp’s walls.
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