The Cannes Film Festival came to an end this past weekend, the 76th edition of the most prestigious showcase for cinema in the world. There was lots of rainy weather, but attendees didn’t seem to mind. After all, this was one of the better editions of the fest in recent years, offering one great movie after another. Here are the 10 best movies we saw at Cannes 2023.
Anatomy of a Fall
It doesn’t always happen, but the best film in this year’s competition won the Palme d’Or. Justin Triet’s Hitchcockian drama had Sandra Hüller playing Sandra, a German-born, France-based novelist who gets accused of killing her husband. Coincidences and clues start to pile up, but there’s still an uncertainty that invades this film. Did she do it? We’re never really sure. The ambiguity is damn-near perverse.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Martin Scorsese screened his latest film, a 206-minute epic, and it turned out to be one of his very best. Killers fits wonderfully well inside his filmography as it continues his passionate obsession on crime and violence. It’s also richly atmospheric and character-driven to a tee. Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone are Oscar-worthy.
Catherine Breillat, of the great French filmmakers of the past 30-plus years, came out of retirement for, at least, one more film. Starring Léa Drucker and Samuel Kircher, the film explores the taboos of a stepmother–stepson relationship. Breillat pushes the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable in today’s society. Her approach is a highly detailed immersion in the often contradictory mechanics of desire and the impulsions that can destroy lives.
Close Your Eyes
Director Victor Erice’s first fiction film in more than 40 years was a love letter to cinema, but done through the story of a disappeared Spanish actor. He vanished during the filming of a movie. His body was never found. The police concluded that he suffered an accident at the edge of a cliff. His best friend believes he might have run away. It’s 169 minutes, a slow-burn with talky dialogue that builds to an emotionally powerful final scene.
The Pot au Feu
Tran Anh Hung won Best Director for his competition entry – a richly satisfying romance set in the French culinary world. Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel are a magnetic pairing. This was a film very much in the same tradition as fellow foodie cinematic delights Big Night and Babette’s Feast.
One of the true finds of this year’s Cannes was Felipe Gálvez’s neo-western which follows three horsemen hired by a rich landowner to empty his land of its native population and open the route to the Atlantic. Nastily rendered violence collides with the shameful past of Chile, one which seems to have been completely erased from the history books.
Based on the 1990s Mary Kay Letourneau scandal, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton star as a married couple whose 20-year relationship inspired a national tabloid obsession. The film is set two decades after those events. Natalie Portman plays an actress embedded with the family to study them for a coming film where she’ll play Moore’s character.
About Dry Grasses
Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 197-minute treatise on modern-day Turkey dragged in spots, but had masterful scenes scattered all throughout its runtime. The film follows a teacher working in rural eastern Anatolia with the hopes of moving to Istanbul, but he is suddenly accused of abusing a student. Merve Dizdar took home the Best Actress prize for her role in the film.
How to Have Sex
Molly Manning Walker’s debut film was about three British teens who go on a resort holiday filled with sex, drugs and boozing. It won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. This was a painfully uncomfortable watch as its three protagonists drink and party almost the entire runtime – to the point of ad nauseam – until an incident occurs. I loved Walker’s handling of tone and realism while also showing a deft confidence in her visual style.
The Jury Prize (third place) was attributed to Aki Kaurismaki’s Fallen Leaves, a wonderfully realized love story told through the Finnish filmmaker’s immaculately deadpan style. He’s a drunk, she’s out of work. They’re both lonely souls. It’s romantic and sweet-natured, finding genuine humour in the little things that can make a couple click.