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Cannes Dials Up All-Star Lineup to Cement Status as Cinema’s Top Dog



Cannes, being Cannes, has done it again.

Let other film festivals fret about the future of the movie business and pander to the all-powerful streamers. Cannes, to paraphrase Harrison Ford, star of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the Disney tentpole that will have its world premiere on the Croisette this year, knows “what the f***” it is. Namely, the world’s premiere film festival. Full stop.

Cannes’ 2023 lineup, which artistic director Thierry Frémaux and new Cannes president Iris Knobloch unveiled Thursday, further solidifies the festival’s position as international cinema’s top dog.

Last year, Cannes blew away that post-pandemic blues with show-stopping premieres Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis, two blockbusters that have come to represent the bounceback of the global theatrical business. This year, alongside James Mangold’s Indiana Jones sequel, the fifth in the juggernaut adventure franchise, featuring a de-aged Harrison Ford alongside Mads Mikkelsen and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, we have Martin Scorsese’s epic Killers of the Flower Moon with Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro, and, in competition, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid Citya typically-Andersonian affair with a red-carpet-busting cast including Scarlett Johansson, Margot Robbie, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Tilda Swindon, Bryan Cranston, Jeffrey Wright, Jason Schwartzman etc, etc.

Those premieres, along with Jeanne du Barry, a French period drama starring Johnny Depp and director/actress Maïwenn, which opens the 76th Cannes Festival on May 16, should keep the paparazzi happy. That, in turn, should help juice the marketing campaigns, and, hopefully, the box office, for Cannes’ biggest titles.

Le Pacte has timed its French release for Jeanne du Barry day-and-date with its Cannes premiere. Focus Features is rolling out Asteroid City in limited release on June 16. Dial of Destiny rolls out worldwide in late June.

Paramount will follow the Cannes premiere of Killers of the Flower Moon with a full theatrical bow in October, the first big test of Apple’s new movie-focused strategy, which will see the tech giant give its biggest movies proper cinema roll-outs, with press and P&A support, before they land on AppleTV+. Apple and fellow tech-and-streaming megalith Amazon, are both set to spend a reported $1 billion each per year on theatrical releases.

For Cannes, which alone among the big international film festivals had steadfastly refused to allow streamer-first movies to premiere in its competition lineup, the shift back to movie theaters feels like validation.

The industry agrees, said Knobloch, that “nothing can replace the event of a film release in the cinema. [that] shared experience in a dark room.” The Cannes 2023 lineup, she said, represents the move “back to the future” of cinema.

If Cannes has anything to do with it, that future will include a healthy dose of international arthouse.

The meat of the 2023 selection comes in the form of independent features from international auteurs — Japanese directors Hirokazu Kore-eda and Taskeshi Kitano, Italian filmmakers Nanni Moretti, Alice Rohrwacher, and Marco Bellocchio, German master Wim Wenders, Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and British cinema treasure Ken Loach — all of whom come with a built-in fan base of specialty cinema buffs.

Arthouse distributors have found it hard to bring their audience back to theaters, post-COVID. Cannes’ all-star auteur lineup, which also features Todd Haynes’ May December starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, The Zone of Interestfrom Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer and promising French thriller Anatomy of a Fallfeaturing Toni Erdmann star Sandra Hüller, could be just the boost specialty cinemas need.

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