Cannes 2023: Ovation for Johnny Depp and award for Michael Douglas

The film festival has returned with a star-studded lineup of guests and films

Johnny Depp, left, and director Maiwenn pose for photographers following Jeanne du Barry film premiere. AP
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The South of France is once again the centre of the movie world. The Cannes Film Festival, now in its 76th edition, is underway. On the city’s seafront boulevard, the Croisette, crash barriers snake around the famous Palais du Cinema, which will soon play host to everyone from Indiana Jones to The Weeknd.

Above the famous red steps, which have held just about everyone who’s anyone in world cinema, the image from this year’s official poster beams down — a black-and-white image of Catherine Deneuve from La Chamade (Heartbeat), Alain Cavalier’s 1968 film shot on Pampelonne beach near Saint-Tropez.

Last night, the festival opened with Deneuve on stage with her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, as the mistress of ceremonies.

Michael Douglas, whose comprehensive work ranges from Wall Street to the recent Ant-Man movies, appeared on stage to receive an Honorary Palme d'Or and talked charmingly about his career and the debt he owed to actor Karl Malden, his co-star in The Streets of San Francisco.

Mastroianni isn’t done with Cannes yet. She’s back in out-of-competition title Eureka, directed by Lisandro Alonso and co-starring Viggo Mortensen over the weekend.

The ceremony built up towards opening film Jeanne Du Barry, a beguiling French period drama from female director Maiwenn, which saw her star alongside Johnny Depp.

In the film, he plays King Louis XV, speaking his role entirely in French, in a tender story that deals with the monarch’s relationship with his last mistress, the feisty Jeanne De Barry, played by Maiwenn. Predictably, there was hysteria on the red carpet when Depp arrived, proving that his fanbase remains as robust as ever. The Lumiere cinema filled with applause, as the film received a standing ovation, as is customary for Cannes gala screenings.

No sooner will Depp have shuffled off the red carpet, than Harrison Ford will be there for his last hurrah as the whip-cracking archaeologist in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Also this week, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro will climbs those stairs for Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, also playing out of competition.

Sean Penn will be back for Black Flies and Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman will be in town for Todd Haynes’s May December. HBO drama The Idol will also present Canadian musician The Weeknd, or Abel Tesfaye, as he now wants to be called.

Johnny Depp receives warm welcome at Cannes

The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Photocall for the film "Jeanne du Barry " Out of competition - Cannes, France, May 17, 2023.  Director Maiwenn and cast members Pauline Pollmann and Johnny Depp pose.  REUTERS / Sarah Meyssonnier

Aside from the big-name projects, Arab cinema is well-represented at the festival. The first Jordanian film ever to feature in Cannes, Inshallah A Boy, directed by Amjad Al Rasheed, unspools in Critics’ Week on Thursday. Meanwhile, three Moroccan films are playing across the festival.

In the Director’s Fortnight sidebar, Faouzi Bensaidi’s Deserts will hit screens this week, while in Un Certain Regard, there are two films: Hounds by Kamal Lazraq and documentary feature The Mother of All Lies by Asmae El Moudir.

On top of that, the Tangier-born Maryam Touzani, the director of The Blue Caftan, is on the jury alongside American stars Brie Larson and Paul Dano. “This year is really special,” El Moudir tells The National. ”It's really, really special for Moroccan cinema. We have one director in the jury. We have one filmmaker, a woman, and two filmmakers, men, in the competitions. This is super nice. This never happened before. And I think it's the year of Morocco this year.”

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund heads the jury this year, fresh from his triumph with Triangle of Sadness at last year’s festival, which won him the second Palme d’Or of his career following 2017’s The Square.

Heading up the Cannes jury is another milestone in the career of the director, who saw Triangle of Sadness nominated for three Oscars. Given the caustic, satirical nature of his movies, it will be fascinating to see in which direction he steers his fellow jurors over the coming eleven days.

“By his own admission, at least a few years ago, Ostlund is almost a proudly self-declared anti-cineaste,” Jan Lumholdt, Scandinavian correspondent for trade paper Cineuropa, explained to The National.

“He doesn't necessarily know his film history from A to Z. When asked about his favourite films from the canon, he’s said in the past, ‘I really prefer to watch YouTube videos.’ Which might be a fresh take on the jury decisions. But I happen to know that he does appreciate certain gems in cinema history. He seems cheerful, enthusiastic, curious, open to things. He’s game for some fun, which I hope will affect the decisions.”

When Ostlund headed the jury press conference yesterday, he talked eloquently about the responsibility that the head juror has when it comes to handing out the Palme d'Or. "It’s one of these prizes that builds the relationship between the director and the audience and a director and the medium.

"You have to be lucky also, when you’re getting it. You have to make a great film but also you have to have a jury that is supporting your film.”

With 21 films in competition, vying for this year’s Palme d’Or, their fates are in his hands.

Updated: May 17, 2023, 12:34 PM