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7 Big Questions For Cannes Film Festival 2023

May 20, 2023

Once again, the world’s media, sales agents, acquisition execs, cinephiles hoping for a free ticket, and wanna-be celebrities crashing the famed red carpet have descended upon Cannes. And unlike 2022 where the festival was about 90% back to pre-pandemic norms, the 76th edition is expected to be a time jump back to better days when the Cannes Film Market was hopping and there were conflicting parties to jump to on la Croisette. And, like any major festival, Cannes inherently makes news, whether it wants to or not.
READ MORE: 21 Must-See Movies at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival
Of course, Awards watchers, such as this pundit, will be looking for what potential Best Picture nominees may premiere in the south of France and speculate over the crop of sure-to-be International Film submission contenders. Financiers will be wondering how lucrative package deals will be given economic concerns around the globe and how potential work stoppages in the U.S. will help or hinder the market (SAG potentially striking in July would have ramifications across the globe). Moreover, this year’s slate may not be as exciting as 2022 (or even 2021 for that matter), but films from Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, Alice Rohrwacher, and Wim Wenders are must-sees for anyone heading to the fest. And, as always, there will be an unexpected discovery or two and a smattering of boos for one lucky film from the always prickly European press.
Keeping all that in mind, here are seven topics to ponder whether you’re on the ground or covering Cannes from afar.
Who will make news at the infamous Cannes press conferences?
Outside of the world of politics, a press conference rarely makes news. Especially in the movie biz where the questions are almost always “film-related.”Many of the world’s major film festivals arequire their talent on hand to attend press conferences, but none of them make news like the ones at Cannes. Lars von Trier’s career has never been the same after he said “I’m a Nazi” at the press conference for “Melancholia” in 2011. Cate Blanchett chastised the now co-editor-in-chief of Variety, who was in the room, for taking her comments out of context and insinuating she was bi-sexual when discussing “Carol.” And just last year, jury member Asghar Farhadi was forced to address a plagiarism lawsuit over his Oscar-nominated film “A Hero.” And, often, real-world events such as Trump’s 2016 election win, the numerous Iranian filmmakers who are banned from traveling to the festival and, most recently, the war in Ukraine have been discussed and debated on the festival dias. This year’s topics are likely to once again include the Ukraine War and the aforementioned WGA and CGT work stoppages (more on that in a minute), but these daily get-togethers always have a surprise or two.
Which U.S. distributors will spend for Todd Haynes’ “May December” or Karim Aïnouz’s “Firebrand”?
Outside of the Cannes Market, which is a whole thing in and of itself for producers and agents to sell packaged projects, Cannes is almost never the acquisitions hubs that Sundance or Toronto have become. This is because most films in competition have pre-sold their distribution rights or, if the films are in English, have been brought to la Croisette by their respective American-based studios (or have U.S. distribution). This year, however, there are two star-filled films that have mini-majors such as Focus Features, Searchlight, NEON, and A24 paying close attention. Todd Haynes’ “May December” stars Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. Reportedly, the producers specifically left U.S. and U.K. rights up for grabs but it has sold in many other global territories. That’s gonna be an issue for companies such as Focus and Searchlight which prefer to leverage their marketing and acquisition investment on a worldwide scale (i.e., it better be a massive hit in the U.S. to be profitable). A film that has many more markets available is “Firebrand” by director Karim Ainouz (“The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão”). The period drama stars Alicia Vikander as Katherine Parr, the last wife of King Henry VI, and features Jude Law as Henry and Sam Riley as Thomas Seymour. It will be intriguing to see if the current work stoppage due to the WGA strike (and a potential SAG strike in July) will drive up the asking price of both films.
Will filmmakers and screenwriters such as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and Sam Levinson defy the WGA’s film festival strike rule?
If you go through the WGA’s strike rules on its official website under Strike Rules the following question is lited: “Can I promote my project at a film festival or at a For Your Consideration event about the film or show I wrote on?” The answer is short and sweet: “No. You should let the Company know you are prohibited from making these promotional appearances about your work until the strike concludes.” In theory, filmmakers such as Scorsese, Anderson, James Mangold,* and Levinson are WGA members in good standing. That means they are paying dues and are active members able to take advantage of WGA benefits such as insurance, voting for the WGA Awards, etc. And while those four in particular are also members of the DGA they aren’t supposed to be able to jump to the “other side” to obstain from a WGA rule. Especially when they wrote on a project. Which – double checks – they did on each of their three projects at Cannes this year. Is the WGA gonna look the other way when they walk the red carpet on la Croisette? Will anyone in the media ask them about it or just focus on their films? Ponder.
*it should be noted Mangold may not have an official written by credit on “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”
Will “The Idol” be so bad it’s good?
Speaking of Levinson, the first episode, er, it appears they are calling it a “film” (sigh) of HBO’s “The Idol” will screen out of competition. The stories and gossip about this project have percolated around Hollywood for over a year and are even crazier than the Rolling Stone expose that made some of it public. But Levinson has an eye and HBO knows how to sell sexy content. Throw in star and producer The Weeknd’s fervent fanbase (it is substantial) and the series will likely get strong ratings out of the gate. The question has always been how critics will react. Will they give Levinson a pass even if it’s a narrative mess? Could it be so campy it’s actually good? Will European film critics embrace it more than television and media critics back in the U.S.? (I’d lean a strong “yes” on that one). Considering HBO is currently not providing the episode to critics before its Cannes premiere, you can be sure everyone will be watching and waiting.
Will the CGT Union turn off the festival’s power supply?
There is lots of unrest in France. The government’s plans for pension reform (which include raising the retirement age) have not gone over well and labor unions such as CGT have been fighting the proposed changes. CGT, like any organization, wants to get attention and has scheduled a protest on May 21. That rally will be far from la Croisette as the City of Cannes has put a ban on protests during the festival. Coincidentally, Denis Gravouil, the president of CGT, is on the administrative board of Cannes. CGT is also hosting as screening of the Bogota workers documentary “Amor, Mujeres y Flores.” Still, there have been rumors that the CGT may cut power to the festival as a form of protest. And Gravouil has made it clear that option has not been ruled out. In a press conference today, festival director Thierry Fremaux was hopeful no action would occur and “emains open to moments of expression.”
What direction will Ruben Ostlund’s jury go?
The “Triangle of Sadness” director has said his ego will be in check and he will have a “democractic” jury, but there are a ton of unknowns with this particular group. Paul Dano is a noted cinephile and Julia Ducournau won the Palme for “Titane” just two years ago. Brie Larson has spent much of the past decade in forgettable studio fare (and Nissan television commercials), but won her Oscar for the indie “Room” and has acclaimed indies such as “Short Term 12” and “The Spectacular Now” on her resume. Meanwhile, director Atiq Rahimi, writer and director Rungano Nyoni and “The Blue Caftan” helmer Maryam Touzani are very much unknown quantities in reards to their cinematic aesthetic. Throw in semi-well known french actor Denis Menochet and this is one jury whose personal picks may be all over the place.
Can your movie win the Palme d’Or if you debut on the last full day of the festival?
It’s extremely rare for a film to take the Palme if it premieres on the last Friday of the festival. Many thought Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” would pull it off in 2014, but most winners are films that have had a few days to percolate with the festival jury. That is why it’s somewhat eyebrow-raising that three films from three acclaimed filmmakers are dropping on Friday, May 26. They include Wim Wenders’ “Perfect Days” (he won for “Paris, Texas” in 1984), Alice Rohrwacher’s “La Chimera” (she’s previously won the Camera d’Or, Best Screenplay, and Grand Prix for three different films), and, most quizzically, three-time Palme d’Or winner Ken Loach, whose “The Old Oak,” will be the last in competition film to screen. Granted, the festival may arrange it so the jury screens all three films earlier in the fest, but it’s definitely gotten longtime festival attendees’ attention.

The 76th Cannes Film Festival runs from Tuesday, May 16 to Saturday, May 27. Look for complete coverage on The Playlist

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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