Five Takeaways From Cannes, From Johnny Depp’s Bizarre Return to a Revival of Extravagant Parties

There’s just something about Cannes.

No film festival can rival it for delivering old-school Hollywood glamour. And the 76th edition hasn’t suffered from a lack of star power during its first half, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman all shining on the red carpet.

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But Cannes isn’t just an opportunity to see the biggest actors on the planet on the biggest stage in moviedom. It’s also a chance to take stock of the industry and the challenges it faces. There’s no graver one, certainly, than the Writers Guild strike that’s put the TV and movie business in a holding pattern, along with the possibility that actors and directors will join the picket lines when their contracts expire in June. So for all the glitziness of the premieres, there’s also an underlying anxiety. Will the good times last much longer?

Johnny Depp Makes a Comeback (Kinda)

Having scored a major victory after a Virginia court ruled in his favor in his defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard, Depp was hoping to use Cannes and the premiere of “Jeanne du Barry” as a launching pad for a return. And the results are … mixed. The crowd at the festival showered Depp with a seven-minute ovation on opening night. But at the press conference the following day, his answers to reporters asking about the cloud that still hangs over him could’ve used some work. They were bizarre and rambling. One U.S. distributor summed up the difficulties facing the actor when asked if their company would buy “Jeanne du Barry”: “I’m not touching anything with Johnny Depp in it.”

Auteur de Force

It’s hard to predict what will pop at a film festival. This year at Cannes, the overwhelming feeling on the ground is the strength of the lineup’s visionary directors. After a 10-year hiatus, Jonathan Glazer came storming back with “The Zone of Interest,” an unnerving look at the domestic lives of a Nazi family living in the shadow of Auschwitz. And he had company among the auteur set. Todd Haynes brought sexy subversiveness with “May December,” while Martin Scorsese scored with “Killers of the Flower Moon.” This Cannes the brightest stars may be the ones behind the camera.

Slow (or Silent?) Marché

Cannes isn’t just a place to premiere movies; it’s also a great setting to sell them. Yet sales agents warned Variety that the market would be quiet this year. Announcing multimillion-dollar sales of finished films and star packages would be disruptive and disrespectful of picketing writers. Indeed, movement around sales has been slower than a French waiter. Haynes’ “May December” scored an $11 million deal from Netflix, but that’s the rare success story. Elsewhere, projects like Dave Bautista’s “Cooler,” Sylvester Stallone’s “Cliffhanger” reboot and Nicolas Cage’s “Lords of War” still need a home.

Indiana Jones Is Ready to Retire

Harrison Ford is bidding farewell to the globe-trotting archaeologist who made him a cinema icon. But based on the tepid reaction to “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” he should have hung up the fedora long ago. The reviews were lukewarm, and while the movie received a standing ovation, it felt more obligatory than enthusiastic.

Opulence is back…but perhaps not for long

Cannes is synonymous with elegance, and that doesn’t come cheap. Vanity Fair, Warner Bros. Discovery and amfAR all threw extravagant bashes at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in nearby Antibes. Studios shelled out to bring “Asteroid City” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” to France. That’s a lot of hair and makeup, hotel and transportation fees. All of these costs come as media conglomerates lay off tens of thousands of people, share prices get battered as Wall Street sours on streaming, and the WGA is holding out for better terms. Frugality may cut into the fromage next year.

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