Croisette Cruise: Eight picks for the 2023 Festival de Cannes

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in Todd Haynes’ May December.
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in Todd Haynes’ May December.

Ahead of the 2023 edition, our Festival de Cannes regular Ella Kemp highlights eight films of interest from this year’s burgeoning programme.

It’s the most merveilleux time of the year: not awards season, not the holidays, but that one fortnight where the tulle and the tuxes are squashed into suitcases as filmmakers, financiers and fans head to the south of France for the Festival de Cannes.

Letterboxd will be sauntering down the Croisette this year, a tiny yet esteemed squad of correspondents (with Letterboxd microphone in hand), to get our first looks at hot titles and hidden gems we’ll be talking about all year long. After all, this is the fest that first gave us Parasite, that debuted Aftersun (whose Letterboxd reviews from its first Cannes screening barely dropped below four-and-a-half stars out of five), and we’re now mentally and physically preparing ourselves for the latest works from Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Jonathan Glazer, Ken Loach—and a new Indiana Jones film, 42 years after the first.

As always, we’re interested in seeking out the diamonds lurking underneath the flashiest headliners just for you: the more unassuming titles that make our hearts sing and are already making their way up your watchlists, the little movies getting their start on one of the world’s most intimidating stages—even if it is a sleepy provincial town for the other 50 weeks of the year. Ahead of the 2023 Festival de Cannes, here are eight movies we’ll be first in line for.

Josh O’Connor in Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera.
Josh O’Connor in Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera.

La Chimera

Written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher
Section: Official Selection

Ingenious Italian magical-realist filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher was last seen in Cannes with her 2022 short film Le Pupille—which later made its way to nominee status at the 95th Academy Awards—and before that she blessed the Official Selection with the glorious feature Happy As Lazzaro, which won her the Best Screenplay Award at the 2018 edition of the festival. Rohrwacher’s new one, La Chimera, casts British sweetheart Josh O’Connor (he of rugged God’s Own Country fame) as an English archeologist in Italy who has “a preternatural ability to connect with the land.” Few directors infuse magic into the natural world like Rohrwacher, and with O’Connor as her overseas muse this time, I can already see the shimmering standing ovation to come.

No Love Lost

Written and directed by Erwan Le Duc
Section: Critics’ Week

Cannes, however many Scorseses stroll down the Croisette, is at its most beautiful when discoveries are at its core. There’s not a whole load to go off for Erwan Le Duc’s No Love Lost, but since Charlotte Wells’s miraculous Aftersun played in the Critics’ Week sidebar last year, all eyes are on this section. Plus, this film is another father-daughter story, in a way. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, the heartbreaking scene-stealer of BPM, plays Etienne, father of young Rosa, whose world is thrown into disarray when years after matriarch Valérie leaves their family Etienne spots her on a TV report. If the emotion hits anywhere near as high and deep as BPM did, this one will be special.

How to Have Sex

Written and directed by Molly Manning Walker
Section: Un Certain Regard

How to Have Sex puts to screen an essential part of being a British teenager: the post-exams holiday, a sixteen-year-old’s summer equivalent to a spring break involving sticky nightclubs, tacky hotels and the best friends you thought you’d have for life. Molly Manning Walker makes her feature debut as a director (after lensing Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper earlier this year) by capturing one girls’ holiday to Malia in which losing her virginity is the absolute priority. Expect a deep dive into British friendship and the universality of consent; expect the titular phrase to be forever changed after this film festival, as Manning Walker tells a story that shakes up the landscape and conversation for good.


Written and directed by Takeshi Kitano
Section: Out of Competition

There are some filmmakers you simply stop everything for, and when Takeshi Kitano tells you he might not make another movie after this one, you pull the brakes harder than ever. Kubi is set to tell the true story of the Honno-ji Incident, which led to the assassination of warlord Oda Nobunaga in a temple in Kyoto in 1582. I have a feeling that the premiere of Kubi in the charming Debussy could be one of those moments you remember for the rest of your life. Competition be damned.

Cinematographer Sean Price Williams makes his directing debut with The Sweet East.
Cinematographer Sean Price Williams makes his directing debut with The Sweet East.

The Sweet East

Written by Nick Pinkerton, directed by Sean Price Williams
Section: Directors’ Fortnight

A few festival titles always have something of a bingo card of information to look forward to—and cinematographer-turned-director Sean Price Williams gives us exactly that with The Sweet East. A short logline teases “strange sects and cults” explored by a young woman across contemporary America, with a starry ensemble cast including Letterboxd faves and up-and-comers Talia Ryder, Jacob Elordi, Rish Shah, Ayo Edibiri and the mile-a-minute maestro of Red Rocket (which could probably be described not too dissimilarly), Simon Rex. For the director of photography behind Good Time, Her Smell, Funny Pages, Heaven Knows What and tons more, we have great expectations.


Written by Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth, directed by Karim Aïnouz
Section: Official Selection

Has any modern actor fully completed the game until they’ve played a monarch? Jude Law is certainly ready to find out. We don’t know too much about Firebrand, Karim Aïnouz’s historical portrait of Henry VIII and, crucially, his last wife (of six!) Catherine Parr, beyond the fact that Law plays the notorious king opposite Alicia Vikander as his Catherine. The film, adapted by Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth (pros at literary adaptation since the 2018 reworking of Fiona Shaw’s romantic novel Tell It to the Bees) retools Elizabeth Fremantle’s 2013 novel Queen’s Gambit (no relation to the Anya Taylor-Joy joint), and in the director’s chair we have Brazilian filmmaker Aïnouz, whose feature debut Madame Satã premiered at the Festival de Cannes all the way back in 2002. Over two decades on, will the director finally lock in the Palme? Only time, and Law’s potential metamorphosis, will tell.

May December

Written by Alex Mechanik and Samy Burch, directed by Todd Haynes
Section: Official Selection

Okay, it’s not necessarily that much of a hidden gem—that’s Todd “Carol and Velvet Goldmine and the banned Barbie movie” Haynes to you—but the filmmaker’s first fiction feature since 2019’s underrated Dark Waters is something to celebrate, especially when Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman are involved. Oh, and Riverdale alumnus Charles Melton as Moore’s husband. The young star—who is attending his very first film festival on the Croisette—recently described May December as “voyeuristic” in its exploration of a cross-generational relationship and the tabloid scandal that erupted from it. Haynes has always grappled with complex, tortuous human relationships with peerless sensitivity and intensity, so the addition of Portman’s invasive reporter into this already fiery psychological drama has us on tenterhooks. Again, only Haynes.

Banel et Adama

Written and directed by Ramata-Toulaye Sy
Section: Official Selection

Historically, it’s been rare to see women, several women, different women, with rich and unusual perspectives in the Official Selection at Cannes. But things are changing! What a thrill to see Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s debut feature Banel et Adama make its way straight into the Official Selection. The film is a love story, set in a small, remote village in Senegal, where sparks and danger—the two best things in any beautiful love affair—frame Banel and Adama as they navigate their differences (he is fiery, she is more reserved) and fight for what matters most: one another. I have fond memories of watching Un Certain Regard title Rafiki at Cannes in 2018, and can only imagine how beautiful it would have been for Wanuri Kahiu to have her moment in competition, so I’ll be rooting for Ramata-Toulaye Sy with all my heart.

The 76th annual Festival de Cannes runs from May 16 to 27, 2023. Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund is serving as jury president.

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