The Cannes Film Festival isn’t just a hub of red carpet premieres, champagne-soaked parties and stars, stars, stars. It is also a dynamic place of negotiation, with studio executives, agents and filmmakers descending on the Riviera to obtain financing for their upcoming projects or to find a distributor for their latest films. The 2023 edition welcomes several compelling packages and potential award contenders that could spark heated bidding wars. Here are 11 films that could leave buyers reaching for espresso instead of rosé as they engage in all-night battles to land the next big thing.
Discard: Sean Penn, Tye Sheridan, Katherine Waterston, Michael Pitt, Mike Tyson
Director: Jean-Stephane Sauvaire
Agency: CAA, WME
Why Buyers Care: Penn and Sheridan have crackling chemistry as the disgruntled mentor and doe-eyed mentee in the thriller Edge of Your Seat, which takes audiences into the often harrowing and always intense reality of paramedics in New York City. A nice warning, though, that “Black Flies” isn’t for the faint of heart. Expect lots of blood, disturbing and graphic wounds, extreme violence…and lots of screaming.
Discard: Alicia Vikander, Jude Law
Director: Karim Ainouz
Why Buyers Care: This look at the final days of Henry VIII and the oft-married king’s last wife, Katherine Parr, feels like Oscar bait. There are costumes, pageantry and showy performances from Vikander and an almost unrecognizable act that could put them in the heat of the moment provided ‘Firebrand’ gets the right independent house – the kind of place that can treat this adult drama with the kind of TLC that Henry, with his penchant for calling the hangman to settle marital disputes, rarely showed his loved ones. As for Parr, she had the last laugh, surviving the unstable monarch to enjoy her remaining days with her head still firmly attached to her body.
Discard: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton
Director: Todd Haynes
Agency: CAA, Independent Cinema Group UTA
For what Buyers Care: Haynes returns with her first narrative feature since 2019’s “Dark Waters,” starring two actress pedigrees in Moore and Portman, plus newcomer Melton (already tipped as a festival breakthrough). The story is juicy, involving an intergenerational affair between Melton and Moore that grips the nation in its early stages. Eighteen years later, they are about to send their children to college. Portman surfaces as an actress slated to play Moore in a family film, one who fits in with the pair to seek out her performance. Probing questions about their origins lead to great tension. Don’t forget, the last time Haynes and Moore reunited, we had Oscar bait in “Far From Heaven.”
Discard: Ando Sakura, Nagayama Eita, Kurokawa Soya, Hiiragi Hinata and Tanaka Yuko
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Agency: CAA, the Freedmen
For what Buyers Care: Kore-eda previously won the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters” in 2018, and he could pull off the same trick yet again with “Monster,” the story of a mother who grows increasingly worried after her young son Minato begins to behave strangely. His search to uncover the cause leads him to uncover some painful truths. Foreign films are hit and miss at the American box office, but Kore-eda has become one of the world’s most admired authors. Cinephiles always notice him when he unveils his latest work.
Discard: Dave Bautista
Director: Drew Pearce
For what Buyers Care: Bautista stars…straight in type as a South Beach bouncer who finds himself on the brink of redemption in hopes of reuniting with his family. But all of that is thrown on a loop when a safe filled with drugs is stolen from the club where he works and he is blackmailed into finding it before the Miami PD Narcotics Bureau comes to retrieve it. Come for Ray’s journey to absolution, stay for his epic 36 odyssey through Miami Beach to retrieve this safe.
Jeanne du Barry
Discard: Johnny Depp, Maiwenn
Agency: CAA, the Freedmen
For what Buyers Care: Regardless of quality, “Jeanne du Barry” is expected to be one of the most talked about films at the festival this year. That’s because it’s Depp’s first starring role after a three-year hiatus following ongoing legal battles with his ex-wife Amber Heard. Maïwenn also made headlines ahead of the premiere, which admitted spitting in the face of an investigative journalist who had written an article accusing her ex-husband Luc Besson of rape. Buyers can’t, well, buy that kind of press for the historical period drama, which revolves around the tumultuous relationship of French King Louis XV and his lover Jeanne du Barry.
Discard: Elisabeth Moss, Kate Hudson, Kaia Gerber
Director: Max Minghella
Agency: CAA, WME, Black Bear International
For what Buyers Care: Minghella, best known for his on-camera work with “The Social Network” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” returns to the director’s chair with an intriguing commentary on society’s obsession with youth and appearance. And he’s assembled a lively cast, including his “Handmaid’s Tale” co-star Moss, the ever-lovely Husdon and Gerber, to bring this twisted psychological thriller to life. Moss plays a struggling actress named Samantha, who jumps at the chance of a free trial at Shell, a beauty company that promises to keep patients “young forever.” As her life and career are transformed by the treatment, she develops a friendship with the glamorous CEO of Shell (Hudson). But when a series of former patients go missing under strange circumstances, Samantha begins to worry that she’s in danger. Spoiler alert: she might be right.
Discard: Sylvester Stallone
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Agency: CAA, Rocket Science
For what Buyers Care: In 1993, the original “Cliffhanger” helped resurrect Stallone’s career after a series of high-profile flops such as “Stop! Or my mother will shoot” and “Oscar”. Thirty years later, Sly reaches the top of the mountain again for another high-altitude thrill ride. And this time, Stallone is a standout, thanks to the Paramount+ “Tulsa King” series and his acclaimed turns in the first two “Creed” films (he skipped the third sequel because…that’s one thing). Plus, “Cliffhanger” promises to deliver the kind of showy action that easily translates to global crowds.
Discard: Nicolas Cage, Bill Skarsgard
Director: Andre Nicol
For what Buyers Care: Cage returns as an amoral arms dealer in this sequel to the 2005 crime drama “Lord of War.” Only this time he has a son, played by “It” escape Skarsgård. Considering all the geopolitical conflicts erupting around the world right now, “Lords of War” seems sadly timely. That quality ripped from the headlines and Cage’s gonzo appeal can make it a hot package.
Discard: Bill Skarsgard, FKA Twigs, Danny Huston
Director: Rupert Sander
For what Buyers Care: How many times can “The Crow” fly? The cult film franchise, based on James O’Barr’s graphic novel, occupies a tragic place in Hollywood history. The first film starred Brandon Lee, who was shot in the abdomen with an improperly loaded stunt gun on set in 1994. Fans came to see the film in full force, leading to three lesser sequels and a TV adaptation. Canadian. Director Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), known for his brilliant acting, is now bringing to the market a complete reboot of the character – a musician resurrected after his own brutal murder. A busy Skarsgard should pique the interest of buyers, as well as its leading lady and crossover musician FKA Twigs.
Discard: Mia Wasikowska, Mathieu Demy, Elsa Zylberstein, Amir El-Masry and Sidse Babett Knudsen
Director: Jessica Hauser
For what Buyers Care: Wasikowska, a favorite of “Jane Eyre” and “Alice in Wonderland,” is sure to intrigue as a teacher at an elite prep school with sinister intentions. It all starts innocently, like teenage cults do, with Miss Novak explaining to her students that eating less is healthy. By the time other educators and parents are taking notice, an unthinkable reality has already begun to unfold. Come hungry… or not.