There’s a term around the Croisette for special moments that seem only possible in the intoxicating, starry, fantasyland that the festival conjures: a Cannes Moment. This can be a random encounter with a Hollywood icon, a scandal, a series of events that seem removed from reality. These moments define the Cannes Film Festival every year, adding to its long history and story. Cannes 2023 was no different; except this time it felt as though the controversies were kept to a minimum, and the sense of cinematic wonder from so many diverse and brilliant films, was dialled to ten. Below are some of our favourite lessons from Cannes ‘23, and the Cannes Moments we’ll never forget. 

Age is Just a Number — Ken Loach, Marco Bellocchio, Scorsese, Nanni Moretti, Wim Wenders, and many of the festival’s most highly-received films came from filmmaking veterans over the age of sixty. Although in recent years, younger talents like Ruben Ostlund and Julia Ducournau have earned the highest honours, 2023 proves that when it comes to producing spell-binding, audience-capturing cinema, age is just a number. 

Harrison ford cannes
Harrison Ford & Wim Wenders at A Rabbit’s Foot Cannes Filmmakers dinner 2023 | Photo by Matias Indjic

Bollywood is Having its Cannes Moment — Indian stars were as prominent on the red-carpet as their Hollywood counterparts. With Anurag Kashyup’s Kennedy, Kanu Behl’s Agra, and buzzy short-film Nehemich, the Croisette was abuzz with Indian acting royalty, from Sara Ali Khan, Esha Gupta, and even the Queen herself, Aishwarya Rai, bringing a much-overdue South Asian presence that could not be ignored. 

Anurag Kashyap
Anurag Kashyap with some of the cast of ‘Kennedy’

Martin Scorsese is Still the King of the Cap — No one film has been more unanimously admired this year than Killers of the Flower Moon. Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour epic has been by far the most positively-received during the festival, even though he hadn’t entered it for the Palme d’Or. It’s quite likely it would have been the strong winner.  

Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Robert DeNiro on the red carpet at the Killers of The Flower Moon premiere

Standing Ovation Times Matter — Have you heard? La Chimera earned a seven-minute standing ovation. Killers of the Flower Moon clocked in at nine. Club Zero was met with near-silence. The length of a post-credit clap really does define just how well the film has been received by the audience—an unspoken litmus test for just how successful the screening has been. This year, you just couldn’t escape the news that so-and-so-movie got a tiny ovation, or a surprisingly enduring one, a sure way to explain to those unlucky not to make a screening just how great (or poor) the movie resonated with audiences. 

Johnny Depp Cast a Controversial Shadow — Whatever you think of Depp, his performance in Jeanne du Barry raised a few critics’ eyebrows. Indeed, even by the final days of the festival, audiences could just not stop discussing how controversial it was to open the festival with a film that starred him in the leading role. Cannes has always played to its own rhythm, and courting controversy is never far away, but was it the right choice? It certainly heralds a big moment in the Depp-redemption arc. 

Johnny Depp Cannes
Johnny Depp Cannes 2023

Streaming Services are Here to Stay — Traditionalists might not approve, but some of the biggest films on display will find their audiences through screening platforms. Apple+ spearheaded this trend with Killers of the Flower Moon, while MUBI have picked up How to Have Sex. Netflix and Amazon were on hand to shop some of the most anticipated films for their catalogues. It also shows a commitment to longer, more thoughtful cinema, by brands often associated with cash-grab flicks. Thankfully, there’s still a strong independent spirit from other productions, at least in equal measure. 

The Line-Up Was Especially Dark — Word around the Croisette was that the general theme of entries during the festival dealt with strong political and psychological themes. This could feel a little daunting at times, with Molly Manning Walker’s How To Have Sex and Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest being particularly harrowing, but no less masterful. An Indiana Jones or Wes Anderson film offered some slight relief. But Cannes 2023 was defined by the deep and dark human stories that were as haunting as they were entertaining. 

How to have sex
How to have Sex