The 2023 edition of the world’s premier film festival begins its 12-day run on May 16 with as many as five previous Palme d’Or winners in the Competition fray. But they aren’t the only filmmakers that we are excited over. Nine directors who have been away from the action for varying periods of time will be particular interest.
Cerrar Los Ojos
Spanish auteur Victor Erice’s first film in 31 years
No director in cinema history has perhaps had the sort of impact on the medium, in their country and across the world, with as few films as Victor Erice, now 82. The Spanish director was in his early 50s when he made his previous film, The Quince Tree Sun (1992), which won a Jury Prize in Cannes. He is back 31 years later with Cerrar Los Ojos (Close Your Eyes). Included in Cannes Premiere, the film is about the disappearance of an actor while shooting a film. His body is never found and it is presumed he drowned. Several years later, a television programme reopens the case as it outlines the actor’s life, death and the final scenes of his last film shot by his close friend, the director himself. Erice, a former film critic, made his first film, The Spirit of the Beehive, in 1973, and followed that up with another critically acclaimed film, El Sur, a decade later. For most cineastes in Cannes, giving Cerra Los Ojos a miss would be a sacrilege.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Martin Scorsese’s first film since The Irishman (2019)
Martin Scorsese’s first film in the Cannes official selection since 1986’s After Hours has both Robert de Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in the cast. For that alone one could safely assume that Killers of the Flower Moon will be another absolute humdinger. The highly anticipated adaptation of the 2017 David Grann non-faction bestseller clocks in at three and a half hours. The length is hardly going to put people off given the memorable results that the director’s collaborations with DiCaprio and De Niro have consistently produced in the past. The sprawling epic centres on a series of murders of Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma and the FBI investigation that followed. Paramount Pictures will release Killers of the Flower Moon later this year before it streams on Apple+. The film has Lily Gladstone (an actress of Native American descent), Jessie Plemons Brendan Fraser and John Lithgow in key roles.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
The adventurous archaeologist is back, 15 years on, for a last hurrah
Talking of long waits, Top Gun: Maverick, a follow-up to a smash hit from 1986, soared at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the first Indiana Jones film not directed by Steven Spielberg, comes a decade and a half after the series’ fourth entry, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Will Harrison Ford, 80, be the sort of top gun that Tom Cruise turned out to be on the Croisette and beyond last year? Fans of the franchise and admirers of Ford – one isn’t sure which is numerically larger – are unlikely to have any reason to grumble at the opportunity to watch the enduring Hollywood star playing the intrepid archaeologist-adventure one last time. Add to that the fact that the cast has additions such as Antonio Banderas, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Mads Mikkelsen, destiny seems loaded in favour of the James Mangold-directed adventure drama that screens Out of Competition.
Catherine’s Breillat’s first film in a decade
Septuagenarian French director Catherine Breillat’s first film since Abuse of Weakness (2013) has all the trappings of her provocative creative approach to the theme of women and desire. Last Summer, surprisingly only Breillat’s second film to compete for the Palme d’Or (The Last Mistress, in 2007, was the last), is about a brilliant and successful lawyer who lives happily in Paris with her husband and their two daughters. A teenage boy, her husband’s son from a past marriage, moves in with the family. The lawyer begins a passionate affair with the boy at the risk of destroying her family and ruining her career. A reworking of the Danish film Queen of Hearts (winner of the Audience Award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival), Last Summer is expected to carry Breillat’s distinctive, envelope-pushing imprimatur.
Aki Kaurismaki’s 1980s proletariat trilogy gets an extension 33 years on
The Finnish master’s first film since The Other Side of Hope (2017) extends his three 1980s proletariat films – Shadows in Paradise (1986), Ariel (1988) and The Match Factory Girl (1990) – beyond a trilogy with another story of individuals languishing on the fringes of Helsinki. Fallen Leaves is Aki Kaurismaki’s fifth Cannes Competition selection after Drifting Clouds (1996), The Man Without a Past (2002 winner of the Cannes Grand Prix), Lights in the Dusk (2006) and Le Havre (2011). Fallen Leaves, characteristically minimalist and 81 minutes long, is about a single woman and supermarket worker who meets an alcoholic man who is as lonely as she is. The odds are stacked against the two making any sort of meaningful connection, but they labour on as people of their class must, if only not to keel over and collapse.
The Zone of Interest
Jonathan Glazer of ‘Under the Skin’ ends 10-year hiatus
A period drama written and directed by Jonathan Glazer and featuring Toni Erdmann star Sandra Huller (also in another Competition title, Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall), The Zone of Interest is a period drama about the commandant of Auschwitz and his wife who seek to build a dream life for their small family in a house and garden next to the concentration camp. The film is loosely based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis. Glazer filmed The Zone of Interest in Auschwitz in 2021. Knowing the director’s propensities for highlighting aspects of humanity that are anything but salutary, we expect the film to lay bare disquieting truths in a world that would be unremarkable without its superficial serenity and beauty.
The Book of Solutions
Michel Gondry, absent for eight years, returns and looks for answers
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry made his last film eight years ago – Microbe & Gasoline (2015). He returns to the thick of the action with the self-reflexive The Book of Solutions (Le Livre des Solutions). It is a drama about a filmmaker constantly on the edge of despair owing to the interfering producers of a film he is making. With his editor as an accomplice, the filmmaker devices ways to save what he has shot. According to the synopsis, the film “alternates between the comic and the downright disturbing”. Sounds inviting enough! The Book of Solutions is in Directors Fortnight.
Tran Ahn Hung stirs the pot after a seven-year sabbatical
Vietnamese-born French director Tran Anh Hung’s new film, which ends a seven-year sabbatical – his last film was 2016’s Eternity – returns to the festival where he won the Camera d’Or for The Scent of Green Papaya 30 years ago. The Pot-au-feu (French title: Le Passion de Dodin Bouffant), starring Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel, is set in 1985 and portrays a romance between a cook and the gourmet she works for. The Venice Golden Lion-winning director (for the Tony Leung starrer Cyclo, 1995) has modelled the character of the gourmet on Dodin-Bouffant, created by Marcel Rouff in a novel published in the 1920s. Films about food and epicureanism rarely fail to connect with audiences and this one is from a filmmaker who rarely goes wrong. The Pot au-feu has the look of an appetising cinematic dish.
About Dry Grasses
Ceylan is back with his first film since 2018
Turkish screenwriter-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s first film since 2018’s The Wild Pear Tree, which also competed for the Palme d’Or, is back in the Cannes Competition with his latest work. About Dry Grasses, which like The Wild Pear Tree and the 2014 Palme d’Or-winning Winter Sleep, runs for more than three hours. Masterly framing, natural settings and sophisticated use of dialogue to create moods and a penchant for capturing the vagaries of life are Ceylan’s forte. We expect more of exactly that in About Dry Grasses, which Ceylan co-wrote with his wife Ebru Ceylan and Akin Aksu (the team that scripted his previous film too). It tells the story of an art teacher in rural eastern Anatolia whose hopes of moving to Istanbul after completing four years of compulsory service in a remote village are dashed when he is accused of harassment by two female students. About Dry Grasses could script another Cannes success story for Ceylan.