CANNES (Reuters) – The French Riviera city of Cannes was transformed into a playground for the film industry this week as the 76th iteration of the glamorous film festival kicked off, promising splashy blockbusters, up-and-coming talent and a hint of controversy.
“We have ‘Indiana Jones,’ we’ve got Martin Scorsese’s new film with Leonardo DiCaprio. We’ve got a Wes Anderson film packed with every single star you could name and sort of a ‘who’s who’ of great auteur arthouse directors,” Scott Roxborough, the European bureau chief at The Hollywood Reporter, told Reuters.
“This combination is all killer, no filler.”
Pedro Almodovar, Natalie Portman and Michael Douglas are among the stars expected to appear on the Croisette boulevard, with new films by directors Nanni Moretti, Ken Loach and Wim Wenders among those competing for the top Palme d’Or prize.
Kicking off the festival is French-language film “Jeanne du Barry,” which casts Johnny Depp as King Louis XV, his first major role since a highly publicized trial against his ex-wife.
Festival director Thierry Fremaux pushed back against criticism that Depp was a controversial choice for an opening-night film, telling Variety magazine the actor had not been banned from working.
In total, 21 films are competing for the Palme d’Or, with a record number of women directors in competition – seven – including Catherine Corsini’s “Homecoming.” The latter was a late addition after some controversy over issues relating to the treatment of child actors on the set and the non-disclosure of an intimate scene involving minors.
The only feature debut in competition this year is “Banel & Adama,” a relationship drama set in a Senegalese village by French-Senegalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy.
This year’s jury president is Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, who won the Palme d’Or for best picture last year with “Triangle of Sadness” as well as in 2017 with art world satire “The Square.”
Other jury members include Brie Larson of “Captain Marvel” and Julia Ducournau, one of two women to win the Palme d’Or.
Out of competition, Harrison Ford will return as adventurous archaeologist Indiana Jones, 15 years since the last film in the franchise, in the world premiere of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” on Thursday.
Making its debut as well is “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a film version of the best-selling book about a series of murders targeting the oil-wealthy Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma. Directed by Scorsese, it stars DiCaprio as well as Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser and John Lithgow.
Despite the glitzy crowd, the festival is not completely immune to real-world problems: The French CGT power union has threatened to cut electricity as part of a protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reforms.
Festival organizers are concerned the unrest seen during the pension reform protests could also make its way to the festival, said Roxborough.
Still, people have a right to protest and free speech should not be kept away from the glamour, he said.
“If that means a nice red carpet gets spoiled, then a nice red carpet gets spoiled,” he said.
The Hollywood writers’ strike that kicked off at the start of May will be on the minds of many in attendance, but Roxborough didn’t foresee a huge impact on the festival.
“It’ll be a bit of a complicated situation” for people with multiple roles, for example writer-director Scorsese, who will be able to speak only as a director as he is on strike as a writer, said Roxborough. “Some of those issues will come up.”
This year’s festival takes place from May 16 to 27.
(Reporting by Alicia Powell, Miranda Murray and Hanna Rantala; Editing by Bernadette Baum)