Everything you should be excited about at Cannes 2023

The film world is gearing up for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, rolling out the red carpet later this month. Rory Doherty previews what to expect as he himself prepares to attend the iconic festival.

Just over three years ago, Parasite was named Best Picture at the Oscars, marking not just the first time a foreign-language film scooped the top award, but the first time in about 65 years that the Oscars agreed with the Cannes Film Festival on the best film of the year. The Palme d’Or may be the most prestigious trophy in the film festival circuit, but rarely do the specialist jury’s tastes cross over with mainstream fare. But in a post-Parasite world, the general film-watching population recognises that the French festival is packed with stuff they’re bound to love.

The post-pandemic Cannes festival has seen acclaim for films that take big swings: the 2021 jury led by Spike Lee awarded the Palme to Julia Ducournau’s Titane, and the next year it went to Ruben Östlund’s class satire Triangle of Sadness. This year, Östlund returns to head a jury (featuring, amongst others, Brie Larson, Paul Dano, and Julia Ducournau herself) that has the unenviable task of choosing winners from a programme packed with highlights.

The most anticipated films appearing at Cannes aren’t eligible for any awards—Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. We’ll also see the latest from Korean genre maestro Kim Jee-woon, Cobweb, and a glitzy TV premiere with the already controversial The Idol, a team-up between Euphoria’s Sam Levinson and The Weeknd. There’s also a premiere of Spanish legend Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, Strange Way of Life, a queer cowboy short starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal.

The Official Selection films—which are films eligible for the jury’s prizes—feature new work from filmmakers we haven’t seen in a while. British director Jonathan Glazer returns with his first feature film since Under the Skin: a romance between a Nazi officer and the wife of a concentration camp commandant titled The Zone of Interest. Knowing Glazer, the adaptation with be a loose one, giving him a lot of room to mine the moral depravity of the fascist genocide. It’ll make a good counterpoint to British director Steve McQueen’s feature documentary debut Occupied City, which focuses on the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam and receives an out-of-competition special screening.

But a good number of filmmakers are used to the honour of attending Cannes. Asteroid City marks Wes Anderson’s third premiere on the Croisette, and Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with Monster just one year after Broker competed for the same awards—although it looks like Monster’s ruminations on violent, dangerous child behaviour will tread much darker waters than Anderson’s dysfunctional Roswell-esque familial drama.

Speaking of Dark Waters! Todd Haynes first came to Cannes in 1995 with his sophomore feature Safe, and his latest, May December (where Natalie Portman plays an actor shadowing her real-life subject, played by Julianne Moore), marks his sixth premiere at the festival. But none of them have anything on British social-realist master Ken Loach, who boasts over fifteen Cannes premieres, and has said that his latest, The Old Oak, which imagines the dying days of Britain’s last pub, will be his last.

European filmmaking is always welcome at Cannes, and the Official Selection has no short supply of talent from the continent. Catherine Breillat made waves with taboo-pushing dramas like Fat Girl and Romance at the turn of the century, now returning with Last Summer, an age-gap affair drama that’s sure to raise some eyebrows—nothing Breillat isn’t used to.

Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki (Le Havre) has a gentler romantic offering with Fallen Leaves—but most of the buzz is reserved for Italian director Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazarro, Le Pupille) who has teamed with Isabella Rossellini and The Crown actor Josh O’Connor for La Chimera—about black market archeology hunting. Rohrwacher’s films all engage in a spirited, playful look at religion and class; it’s exciting to see her films launch with this much hype, with plenty of speculation that she’ll be up for the very top prizes.

Of course, Cannes is known for its many smaller competition strands, like Un Certain Regard and the not-officially-connected Director’s Fortnight and Critic’s Week. Often, the selections will consist of new directors, usually with their first and second features, but already some titles are grabbing attention. How to Have Sex casts Persuasion’s Mia McKenna-Bruce as a teenage Brit on a dangerous girls holiday overseas; The Sweet East assembles Jacob Elordi, Ayo Edebiri, and Simon Rex for a backwaters exploration of America’s East Coast, directed by the Safdie Brothers’ cinematographer Sean Price Williams.

And there are still surprises in store! Quentin Tarantino, who won the Palme d’Or in 1994 for Pulp Fiction, is making an appearance as the Director’s Fortnight’s honorary guest, presenting a special screening of a secret project—it could be a look at the first few episodes of the 8-episode television series he’s previously announced. It looks like the 2023 edition of Cannes will pack enough cinematic excitement to last us the whole year.