It’s the most exciting time of the year: the Cannes Film Festival is set to kick off next week, taking place May 16-27. Ahead of festivities we’ve rounded up what we’re most looking forward to, and while we’re sure many surprises await, per every year, one will find 20 films that should be on your radar. Check out our picks below and be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest updates from the festival.
About Dry Grasses (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
While it’s been five long years since the latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, we did get a recent re-release of his stellar breakout feature Uzak aka Distant, but it’s now finally time for a new film from the Turkish director. Les herbes sèches (aka About Dry Grasses) clocks in at familiarly epic length (3 hours and 17 minutes) and follows Samet, a young teacher who is finishing his fourth year of compulsory service in a remote village in Anatolia while hoping to be assigned to Istanbul. When he and his colleague Kenan are accused of harassment by two female students, he loses all hope of escaping the grim life he seems to be stuck in. But his meeting with Nuray, herself a teacher, may help him overcome his angst. – Jordan R.
Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet)
Following up her strong psychodrama Sibyl, Justine Triet is back with the 2.5-hour Anatomy of a Fall, set to premiere in competition at the festival. Featuring Toni Erdmann‘s Sandra Hüller, who also appears in Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, the drama follows a family whose patriarch is found dead, spurring an investigation in which the wife is indicted. The film then picks up a year later, during the trial, as their relationship is dissected. Triet has quite a handle on the nuances of complex character drama, and we look forward to seeing what she does with this set-up. – Jordan R.
Asteroid City (Wes Anderson)
Only Cannes has the red carpet worthy of a Wes Anderson ensemble. Following The French Dispatch‘s premiere at the festival a couple years back, he’s returned with Asteroid City. Starring [takes a deep breath] Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Grace Edwards, Aristou Meehan, Sophia Lillis, Ethan Lee, Jeff Goldblum, and Rita Wilson, the film will thankfully arrive in theaters just a few weeks after, on June 16.
Cerrar los ojos (Víctor Erice)
There are not many directors who have amassed, amongst so few films, a richer contribution to the world of cinema than Víctor Erice. The 82-year-old Spanish director broke out with 1973’s The Spirit of the Beehive, followed by El Sur in 1983 and The Quince Tree Sun in 1992. Now he’s finally set to return with his first feature in over thirty years. Cerrar los ojos (aka To Close One’s Eyes) takes a meta approach, following a director living in retirement and enjoying a life of fishing. He left a film in the 1990s unfinished after his star (also a friend from the military) disappeared. A television program investigating that disappearance causes the director to reunite with his former collaborators, leading to an “emotional earthquake.” Simply put: one of the major cinematic events of 2023. – Jordan R.
La chimera (Alice Rohrwacher)
Alice Rohrwacher’s last two movies looked to the present state of Italy (Happy as Lazzaro) and its potential future with the new generation of teenagers (Futura). Her new movie La Chimera looks to the past, taking place in the 1980s and focusing on a young archeologist who gets caught up in the black market of robbing ancient tombs. Rohrwacher creates cinema to consider the lives of young people, their thoughts about the world, and their conflicting place in it. La Chimera not only seems a wild thematic diversion, but as her first movie with big-name actors (Isabella Rossellini) and an English lead (Josh O’Connor). – Soham G.
Club Zero (Jessica Hausner)
Jessica Hausner’s deadpan riff on the paranoid conspiracy thrillers of the ’70s, 2019’s Little Joe, was one of the most underappreciated sci-fi efforts in recent years. For her second English-language feature, the Austrian director returns to that genre with something even more uncomfortable, taking us deep into the inner workings of an elite school where a new teacher is indoctrinating her students into a cult of “extreme nutrition.” Led by Mia Wasikowska, it suggests a genre throwback in the same vein of that previous effort, but on a much grander scale. – Alistair R.
Cobweb (Kim Jee-woon)
Like many directors who broke out of the Korean New Wave in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Kim Jee-woon had his shot to make a successful crossover with American audiences in 2013 with The Last Stand. While not living up to those expectations, the years since his 2010 hit I Saw The Devil have been relatively quiet. His next film, Cobweb, sounds like a welcome return to form. The story centers around an obsessive director who wants to recut a film he made in the ’70s to perfect the ending. With the versatile Song Kang-ho at the center, it sounds set up to be a home run. – Erik N.
Eureka (Lisandro Alonso)
Since his striking, transportive drama Jauja in 2014, the wait for Lisandro Alonso’s follow-up has been long. In development for years, Eureka is an ambitious project spanning between 1870 and 2019 across four parts, with a focus on Native American culture and locations across the world. Featuring Viggo Mortensen, Chiara Mastroianni, Maria de Medeiros, Viilbjørk Malling Agger, Rafi Pitts, and Jose Maria Yaspik, production finally began in late 2021, and now it’s ready for a festival berth––though it’s shame it wasn’t designated for a competition slot. – Jordan R.
The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed (Joanna Arnow)
After shorts and medium-length films that have screened at Berlinale, Rotterdam, New York, and more, Joanna Arnow will now debut her first feature––which she also wrote, edited, and stars in––at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. Boasting what seems to be the longest title in the Cannes lineup, The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed follows a 30-something Jewish woman in New York who practices the art of submission in the bedroom, and also navigates power dynamics in other facets of her life from work to family. – Jordan R.
Last Summer (Catherine Breillat)
After a relatively prolific output in the ’90s and ’00s––including her widely acclaimed 2001 drama Fat Girl––Catherine Breillat hasn’t made a film since 2013’s Abuse of Weakness starring Isabelle Huppert. The French filmmaker is finally set to return with a new project: Breillat has directed a remake of May el-Toukhy’s Queen of Hearts, which was selected as Denmark’s Oscar entry in 2019. The erotic drama followed a lawyer and mother who gets romantically involved with her teenage stepson, causing familial strife. Starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Olivier Rabourdin, it’ll premiere in competition. – Jordan R.
One of the most anticipated late additions to the Cannes lineup hails from Mexican director Amat Escalante, who returns to the festival after winning Best Director for Heli, and whose last feature was 2016’s genre-defying thriller The Untamed, for which he won Best Director at Venice. Lost in the Night, starring Juan Daniel Garcia, Barbara Mori, Ester Exposito, Fernando Bonilla, and Maria Fernanda Osio, follows a son living in a Mexico mining town who attempts to uncover the mystery behind the disappearance of his activist mother. – Jordan R.
Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki)
One of the great directors working today, Aki Kaurismäki, returns with his first film since 2017’s The Other Side of Hope. Fallen Leaves, at a refreshing 81 minutes, will premiere in competition. Described as a “gentle tragicomedy,” it marks the fourth part of Kaurismäki’s working-class trilogy, following Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl. – Jordan R.
In Our Day (Hong Sang-soo)
Death, taxes, a minimum two Hong Sangsoo movies a year. Three months since the ultra-spare in water he’s completed In Our Day, first word of which suggests another relaxed meditation on life’s big questions (plus a focus on cat ownership). Expect a Cinema Guild pick-up and further appearance in fall festivals. – Nick N
Likely we don’t have a world of time left with Martin Scorsese, who turns 81 as his latest premieres, but nothing about Killers of the Flower Moon suggests reduced ambition. Nor does Apple footing the $200 million bill correlate with an amiable experience. Adapting David Grann’s acclaimed book, Flower Moon connects brutal, widespread murders of the oil-prosperous Osage Nation with Oklahoma’s white, wealthy, read-about-these-psychos-at-your-own-peril Hale family. The latter’s embodied by Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, which constitutes as much a Scorsese benchmark as The Irishman; and no less notable an ensemble for including Lily Gladstone, Scott Shepherd, Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser, and John Lithgow. That director / cast / material / resources combination is a bit dizzying, and if there’s decent chance at least a few titles in the festival exceed Killers of the Flower Moon for shock and surprise, none loom to such degree. – Nick N.
Kubi (Takeshi Kitano)
One of our most-anticipated films from the Cannes lineup is the latest work from Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano. Kubi, set to debut in the Cannes Premiere section and marking his first film since 2017’s Outrage Coda, has been on the filmmaker’s mind for the last thirty years, initially developing it around 1993’s Sonatine. Based on the director’s own novel, which was released in 2019, the period epic will follow the real-life Honno-ji Incident, in which famed warlord Oda Nobunaga was assassinated at a temple in Kyoto in 1582. Starring Asano Tadanobu, Nishijima Hidetoshi, and Kase Ryo, the film was originally reported to be the 76-year-old director’s final feature, but thankfully that isn’t the case. – Jordan R.
May December (Todd Haynes)
After exploring the history of the Velvet Underground, Todd Haynes is returning with his first narrative feature since 2019’s severely overlooked Dark Waters, as May December is set for a Cannes Film Festival launch in competition. Starring Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman, scripted by Samy Burch, and shot by Kelly Reichardt’s longtime cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, May December draws inspiration from the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal. Here’s the logline: “Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple buckles under the pressure when an actress arrives to do research for a film about their past.”
Occupied City (Steven McQueen)
After the epic undertaking of his five-film series Small Axe, Steve McQueen is returning with a pair of new films. Before his WWII drama Blitz, which recently wrapped, he directed a new documentary that captures a city during wartime. Clocking in at nearly 4.5 hours, Occupied City draws from Bianca Stigter’s “Atlas of an Occupied City (Amsterdam 1940-1945)” and features “two interlocking portraits: a door-to-door excavation of the Nazi occupation that still haunts his adopted city, and a vivid journey through the last years of pandemic and protest. What emerges is both devastating and life-affirming, an expansive meditation on memory, time, and where we’re headed,” notes the Cannes site. – Jordan R.
Short Films by Pedro Almodóvar, Jean-Luc Godard, and Pedro Costa
Maybe no Cannes-related offering looms larger than the shorts program. While Almodóvar’s Strange Way of Life sounds fun, the final-ish work from Jean-Luc Godard, “trailer” or otherwise, merits Cannes’ heavy pomp and major circumstance. And I’m simply ecstatic at the prospect of Pedro Costa’s first work since 2019’s Vitalina Varela––seemingly fashioned for some time in a film-theater-music hybrid, and (no matter its original form) sure to deliver this year’s greatest images. – Nick N.
The Sweet East (Sean Price Williams)
Having rewritten whole corners of modern American cinema in his grainy 16mm image, Sean Price Williams––cinematographer for the Safdies, Michael Almereyda, Alex Ross Perry, Abel Ferrara, and Robert Greene––finally stepped to feature-length directing with a script by the astute, sharply opinionated critic Nick Pinkerton. An enticing combination that gains intrigue from suggestions of its official synopsis––i.e. “picaresque journey through contemporary America, undertaken by a young woman granted access to the strange sects and cults that proliferate in this country by a series of gatekeepers eager to win her over”––and onscreen combination of young talent (Talia Ryder, Jacob Elordi) with the provider of 2021’s greatest performance, Simon Rex. – Nick N.
The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer)
It’s been nearly ten years since Jonathan Glazer debuted Under the Skin at the Telluride Film Festival and now the English director has finally put the finishing touches on his follow-up. Once again backed by A24, The Zone of Interest will premiere in competition at Cannes. Based on Martin Amis’s Auschwitz-set novel, the film features Toni Erdmann star Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel (Amour Fou, The White Ribbon). Here’s the synopsis: “The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.” Clocking in at 106 minutes and shot by Łukasz Żal (Cold War, Ida) with Mica Levi reuniting to score, we expect another harrowing odyssey from the director. – Jordan R.
Considering the breadth of the Cannes lineup, there’s plenty more to anticipate, including two features from both Wang Bing (Jeunesse and Man in Black) and Wim Wenders (Perfect Days and Anselm), along with new films from the legendary Marco Bellocchio (Kidnapped) and Ken Loach (The Wild Oak).
While Broker seemed to not land with much excitement, we’re curious about Hirokazu Kore-eda’s follow-up Monster. Also on our radar is Michel Gondry’s first film in some time, The Book of Solutions, as well as the Cate Blanchett-led The New Boy and Bertrand Mandico’s She Is Conann. Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap is also back with the noir Kennedy while Kleber Mendonça Filho returns with Pictures of Ghosts and Karim Aïnouz with Firebrand.
In terms of discoveries, we’re also looking forward to a trio of Un Certain Regard premieres: Molly Manning Walker’s How to Have Sex, which was recently picked up by MUBI, as well as Rodrigo Moreno’s The Delinquents and Felipe Gálvez’s The Settlers.