The 76th annual Cannes Film Festival kicked off its prestigious programming on May 16th and will run until May 27th. With this being my first time covering this festival, though not my first time in the country, I could not contain my excitement!
Not without some hiccups, my experience with Cannes 2023 hasn’t been the smoothest. There have been some wild traveling escapades, and I’m sure anyone can imagine the expenses I have already accrued. But the biggest gripe I’ve had is with the ticketing experience. Every day at 7:00 am CET, the ticket window opens up for a day of screenings (4 days before the live event). Basically, first come-first served. So, one can imagine all the screenings I’ve missed out on (and will miss).
Nevertheless, I am in France! And this is one of my favorite countries to visit for the people, food, tourist sites, and much more. So, for the past week, I’ve thrown all complaints out the window, prioritized sleep, and put on my rain shoes so that I can have some fun and soak up all the festival frenzy.
This was the first festival for which I have not put a watchlist together–mostly because of the aforementioned ticketing experience. However, every couple of days, I will recap and share my thoughts on the films I’ve watched. So, without further ado, here are my capsule reviews for Cannes 2023 days 1 and 2.
Jeanne Du Barry | Director: Maïwenn
Cannes Synopsis: Jeanne Vaubernier, a working-class woman determined to climb the social ladder, uses her charms to escape her impoverished condition. Her lover, the Comte du Barry, grown rich thanks to Jeanne’s amorous intrigues, wishes to present her to the King and orchestrates a meeting through the influential Duke of Richelieu. The encounter goes far beyond his expectations: for Louis XV and Jeanne, it’s love at first sight. Through the courtesan, the king rediscovers his appetite for life: so much that he can no longer live without her and decides to make her his official favourite. Scandal ensues. No one wants a girl from the streets at Court.
Review: Johnny Depp’s return to the Cannes Film Festival may have been met with loaded applauses and cheers, but the film that brought him here… well, let’s just say that it’s quite a different story, at least among American audiences. Maïwenn’s feature, Jeanne du Barry, contains some wonderful set designs, costuming, and even decent enough chemistry from the two leads. However, it’s pretty shallow in revealing who Jeanne du Barry truly was.
Historical inaccuracies aside, the film and script paint several pictures that didn’t exist. But the one that stood out for me most was Jeanne’s relationship and treatment of her personal assistant Zamor, a African child brought to Jeanne as a gift from King Louis XV It fascinates me how we as an audience are supposed to believe that out of all the white Europeans during that time, Jeanne was the only one to treat him with the utmost decency. Why Maïwenn took that approach–possibly to make viewers develop an empathetic view towards her character (when there’s already plenty of reasons for it)–puzzles me. It is odd and irresponsible.
If nothing else, Jeanne du Barry does tell quite a nice story about a woman who rose from rags to riches using her harlotry, wits, and heart and by capitalizing on the King’s infatuation with her. Maïwenn demonstrates her ability to run the show in front of and behind the camera. Her acting commands the attention every moment on screen. My personal issues with the actor aside [which also happen to indicate my wider problem with Hollywood regarding the protection of abusers], Depp’s acting and accent are fine [especially with very little dialogue he has]. The true standout for me, however, was Benjamin Lavernhe. What a sweet and emotional performance from him. Lavernhe is able to showcase his talent through subtlety, yet he’s able to give his all when the script demands it.
Good acting, excellent direction, and wonderful cinematography & set design, Jeanne du Barry is certainly worth the watch. But the script simply left so much to be desired, especially when it comes to the romance between Jeanne & King Louis, as well as who she truly was as a woman.
Monster (KAIBUTSU) | Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cannes Synopsis: When her young son Minato starts to behave strangely, his mother feels that there is something wrong. Discovering that a teacher is responsible, she storms into the school demanding to know what’s going on. But as the story unfolds through the eyes of mother, teacher and child, the truth gradually emerges. Palme d’Or winner and internationally acclaimed director Kore-Eda Hirokazu returns with a delicate, powerfully moving story of love, duty, social conflict and secrets.
Review: “Hirokazu Kore-eda returned to the Cannes Film Festival to debut his ninth feature film, marking his seventh entry at the popular international event and his first in which he does not pen the script for a feature since his debut. In his first Japanese language film since Shoplifters, the director collaborates with the renowned Japanese TV writer, Yuji Sakamoto.
Monster reveals a story about adolescence, lies & deceit, and the consequences thereof from a humane perspective, slowly revealing intricate details of life’s biggest complications through three vantage points. The film demands a great deal of patience from you, but the payoff and the events leading up to it are well-earned emotional depositions.
A wonderful exploration of complex life experiences through the eyes of three different characters, Monster is considerate in how it tackles a range of themes related to bullying, child abuse, and lies. The exceptional camera work by Kore-eda and tender script from Yuji Sakamoto is a near-perfect pairing.”
Simply put, add this one to your much-watch list. And if you need to familiarize yourself with Kore-eda’s work, do yourself a favor and marathon his films. You won’t be disappointed… Just be sure to grab tissues 🙂 For my full review of Monster, please visit Screen Rant.
The Nature of Love | Director: Monia Chokri
Cannes Synopsis: Sophia, a 40-year-old philosophy professor, is in a stable if somewhat socially conforming relationship with Xavier. From gallery openings to endless dinner parties, ten years have already flown by. Sylvain is a craftsman, renovating Sophia and Xavier’s new country house. When Sophia and Sylvain meet, Sophia’s world is turned upside down. Opposites attract, but can they last?
Review: Monia Chokri’s Canadian romantic comedy feature premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival to warm reception and roaring applause. This is for great reason too. The Nature of Love is bold, charming, and funny in how it captures complacency in relationships and what happens when a woman craves more adventure and passion. When Sophia, who is in a committed relationship to her boring, yet stable boyfriend Xavier, begins to crave something new, she sets her sights on Sylvain, the contractor they hired to do renovations on a new home.
While the script centralizes cheating at first, the true story is about pursuing the things [or people] you want in life free of guilt. For many women in their 30-40s, sometimes that means forgoing marriage or not wanting to have kids any longer. No matter the decision, Chokri centers the importance of making decisions for oneself over catering to the happiness of others, which is why it’ll resonate with many people.
Even though the film contains such heavy topics (as the ones mentioned above), it is truly delightful and hilarious in several moments. At times, it tends to lean into awkward territory, but that’s a part of the film’s charm that many will love. So, grab a hold of your seats for this messy rom-com. It is worth checking out!