Cannes: Maïwenn and Moving Right Along

Maïwenn and Johnny Depp in Jeanne du Barry (2023)

Cannes may not deliberately court controversy, but it certainly doesn’t mind it, either. Not only does a little scandal keep the festival in the news, it also lends the event—often criticized for cozying up to the same auteurs year after year—a bit of an edge. Maïwenn, the director and star of the opening night film, Jeanne du Barry, arrived on Tuesday bearing gifts. A few days before, she freely admitted to yanking back the head of a journalist by his hair and spitting in his face. Retaliation, evidently, for his reporting on accusations of sexual assault levied against producer Luc Besson, to whom Maïwenn was married for a few years in the 1990s.

Maïwenn’s second gift was her costar, Johnny Depp. “Why,” wonders Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times, “out of all the films in all the world, had festival programmers chosen the one showcasing an actor currently best known for his violent and highly litigious relationship with ex-wife Amber Heard? How would the audience and festival-goers react? With nothing but cheers and applause, as it turns out.”

While fans went wild all up and down the red carpet, critics inside the theater were not having as grand a time. Maïwenn plays Jeanne Bécu, the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress who, with considerable political savvy, sleeps her way into the court of Louis XV (Depp). For the Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer, “the paradox of Jeanne du Barry is that, despite the daring life it’s based on and the daring casting of the semi-blacklisted Depp, this is a movie that winds up playing it too safe.”

Reviewing this “stale and draughty period piece” for the Telegraph, Robbie Collin suggests that Depp “may be the actor least suited—after Hulk Hogan—to playing an ancien régime monarch: true, his French is not too shabby, but his regal gravitas is nonexistent.” But for the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, the “essential silliness of the film is part of its watchability.”

Up Ahead

Over the past several days, critics have been drawing up lists of films they’re most looking forward to catching in Cannes. The most-anticipated film of the festival is clearly Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which will premiere out of competition on Saturday. Scorsese tells Mike Fleming Jr. about how, during the years he spent working on the screenplay with Eric Roth, the story evolved from a police procedural—the investigation of a series of mysterious deaths of wealthy members of the Osage Nation in the 1920s—into a love story.

Fleming’s interview went viral within hours after Deadline published it on Tuesday morning, primarily because Scorsese’s comments at the end of it broke everyone’s hearts. “I’m old,” he says. He turned eighty last November. “I want to tell stories, and there’s no more time. Kurosawa, when he got his Oscar, when George [Lucas] and Steven [Spielberg] gave it to him, he said, ‘I’m only now beginning to see the possibility of what cinema could be, and it’s too late.’ He was eighty-three. At the time, I said, ‘What does he mean?’ Now I know what he means.”

Wes Anderson, whose star-spangled Asteroid City is set at an isolated desert outpost in the mid-1950s, spoke to the New York TimesKyle Buchanan a few days before the festival opened. “The reason to go to Cannes, I think, is because they said yes,” Anderson told him. “After that, there isn’t really much to contemplate.” Asked about the latest addition to his regular ensemble, Tom Hanks, Anderson said, “I couldn’t have had a better time working with anybody.”

High on two lists—Bilge Ebiri and Rachel Handler’s at Vulture and Richard Lawson and Rebecca Ford’s at Vanity Fair—is Todd Haynes’s May December, starring Natalie Portman as Elizabeth, an actress who drops in at the home of Gracie and Joe (Julianne Moore and Charles Melton), a couple whose romance made tabloid headlines twenty years ago simply because she’s older than he is. Elizabeth has been cast as Gracie in an upcoming movie. “Natalie Portman as Julianne Moore,” write Ebiri and Handler. “Somehow Haynes always knows exactly what the culture is calling for.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney picks ten titles, including Firebrand, starring Jude Law as Henry VIII and Alicia Vikander as the king’s last wife, Catherine Parr. Firebrand is the first feature in English from Karim Aïnouz, whose “luscious 2019 melodrama The Invisible Life was one of the international Oscar nominators’ most grievous oversights of recent years.”

Rooney also lists The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Martin Amis’s 2014 novel about a Nazi commandant setting up a homestead just outside the walls of Auschwitz. “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,” writes Rooney. The commandant’s wife is played by Sandra Hüller, the breakout star of Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann (2016). Hüller plays a writer suspected of killing her husband in Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, a film that, according to David Katz at Cineuropa, is generating “some of the strongest pre-premiere buzz.”

Close Your Eyes will be the first feature from Víctor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive) in more than thirty years, so next week’s premiere will be “one of the major cinematic events of 2023,” as Film Stage founder and editor Jordan Raup puts it. Also the Film Stage, Nick Newman is looking ahead to tomorrow’s Directors Fortnight presentation of The Sweet East: “Having rewritten whole corners of modern American cinema in his grainy 16 mm image, Sean Price Williams—cinematographer for the Safdies, Michael Almereyda, Alex Ross Perry, Abel Ferrara, and Robert Greene—finally stepped to feature-length directing with a script by the astute, sharply opinionated critic Nick Pinkerton.”

Another cinematographer directing her first feature is Molly Manning Walker. How to Have Sex “definitely wants you to think you’re in for a fun romp about three teenage girls trying to get laid during a bacchanalian holiday on the Greek island of Malia,” writes IndieWire’s David Ehrlich. “Unfortunately for this trio of long-time besties, they were born into a movie that takes place in the real world.”

The Market

A lot of the buzz in Cannes will be coming not from darkened theaters but from the Market. The Hollywood Reporter’s Mia Galuppo and Scott Roxborough survey several “hot titles” on offer to international buyers, and while many of them look instantly forgettable, a few are promising. Eran Riklis (Lemon Tree) is set to direct Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly) and Zar Amir-Ebrahimi (Holy Spider) in Lolita in Tehran, an adaptation of Azar Nafisi’s 2003 international best seller about a secret book club.

In Voyagers, Andrew Garfield and Daisy Edgar-Jones will play astronomer Carl Sagan and documentary filmmaker Ann Druyan, who fell in love while working on the Golden Record that flew out into the great beyond on the interstellar probes Voyager 1 and 2. Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman) will direct. Garfield has also signed onto We Live in Time, a love story costarring Florence Pugh and directed by John Crowley (Brooklyn).

David Mamet has lined up quite the cast for Assassination, an alternate history in which a Chicago mob boss has JFK killed: Al Pacino, John Travolta, Courtney Love, Viggo Mortensen, and Shia LaBeouf. Manori Ravindran has more in Variety, where Elsa Keslassy reports that Céline Sciamma and Noémie Merlant are cowriting Merlant’s second feature as a director, The Balconettes: “Set in a boiling Marseille neighborhood plagued by a heat wave, the movie revolves around three roommates who gleefully meddle in the lives of their neighbors from their balcony. Until a late-night drink turns into a bloody affair.”

Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman and Mike Fleming Jr. report on another “hot pic” heading to the Market, Ron Howard’s Origin of the Species, “a darkly comic tale of murder and survival, set around a group of eclectic characters who abandon civilization for the Galapagos.” Ana De Armas, Jude Law, and Daniel Brühl will star, and Alicia Vikander just might join them. Wiseman also reports on Pablo Larraín’s Maria, starring Angelina Jolie as Maria Callas.

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