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Cannes 2023: Exciting Films at This Year's Festival

(Pictured: Catherine Deneuve in this year's festival poster.)

The Cannes Film Festival begins on Tuesday, and undoubtedly the most anticipated film is "Killers of the Flower Moon," the first new picture that Martin Scorsese will have shown at the festival since "After Hours" in 1986. (He won the festival's best-director award that year. Watch Chaz Ebert and Isaac Feldberg's preview of the festival here.)

But it's not by any means Scorsese's first appearance at Cannes since 1986. For a start, he was the jury president in 1998. But he has also been a regular, rapturously received presence at the festival (where the French pronounce his name scor-SEHZ) doing what he does all over the world: championing the love of cinema and raising awareness of films he treasures. In 2009, he introduced a restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Red Shoes." In 2018, in a stage discussion at a revival screening of "Mean Streets" in Directors' Fortnight, he reflected on showing the film at Cannes in 1974, and on how the early 1970s felt like an exciting period for the discovery of both new filmmakers and older, overlooked ones. "Killers of the Flower Moon" is not competing, but Scorsese's presence will loom large no matter which director wins the Palme d'Or.

Speaking of imposing presences: The festival will show a new 20-minute piece by Jean-Luc Godard, who died last year. The festival catalog calls it "Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: 'Phony Wars.'" Even with its brief length, it promises to be more densely packed with ideas than just about any other film that's screening.

More icons: Indiana Jones will return to the Croisette with "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny," directed by James Mangold, who obviously has big shoes to fill as the first non-Spielberg director to make a movie in this series. Indy was last here in 2008 for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which was so hotly anticipated at Cannes that one critic actually live-texted thoughts from the first screening, while the movie was playing. Here's hoping "Dial of Destiny" is good enough to merit a more enthusiastic reception (and also that nobody live-tweets it).

Who's vying for the Palme d'Or, you ask? There are 21 films in this year's competition, and a record one-third of them are directed by women, including some Cannes regulars, like Jessica Hausner (here with "Club Zero"), Alice Rohrwacher (with "La Chimera"), Catherine Breillat (with "Last Summer"), and Justine Triet (with "Anatomy of a Fall").

Todd Haynes will be here with "May December," which stars Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. Jonathan Glazer's new feature, his first since his "Under the Skin" 10 years ago, is rather accurately titled "The Zone of Interest." It will be hard for him to top the radically disorienting perspective of his last feature, which tried to imagine events strictly from an alien's understanding.

All the competition filmmakers mentioned so far will be competing to win their first Palme, but past winners like Hirokazu Kore-eda (with "Monster"), Nuri Bilge Ceylan (with "About Dry Grasses"), Nanni Moretti (with "A Brighter Tomorrow"), and Wim Wenders (with "Perfect Days") are contending to win a second. Ken Loach, with "The Old Oak," could in theory be the first person ever to win a third, but don't hold your breath.

And of course the competition has "Asteroid City," Wes Anderson's tribute to atomic-age science fiction. He tends to get warm receptions here, and he has packed more cast members into his film (Tom Hanks and Margot Robbie join Anderson regulars like Jason Schwartzman, Jeffrey Wright, and Scarlett Johansson) than it seems possible to have stand side by side at the top of the Grand Théâtre Lumière steps. The movie opens in the United States in June.

Watch Chaz Ebert's first video dispatch from the 2023 Cannes Film Festival with Isaac Feldberg here.

Ben Kenigsberg

Ben Kenigsberg is a frequent contributor to The New York Times. He edited the film section of Time Out Chicago from 2011 to 2013 and served as a staff critic for the magazine beginning in 2006. 

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