Cannes Film Festival 2023: Day 1: Opening Film: Jeanne du Barry (2023)

The Opening Film of the Cannes Film Festival on 16 May 2023, Jeanne du Barry written, directed and starred in by Maïwenn, one of France’s more controversial directors, is a $22.4 million biopic of the legendary 18th century French courtesan.

Maïwenn Showcase

by Alexa Dalby

Jeanne du Barry

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The film follows the life of Jeanne Bécu, who was born as the illegitimate daughter of an impoverished seamstress in 1743 and went on to rise through the Court of Louis XV to become his last official mistress.

This is the sixth feature film and the fourth work in the Official Selection for Maïwenn who presents, as the Opening film Out of Competition, her first period film, set in the Age of Enlightenment. Following Polisse, which won the 2011 Jury Prize, Mon Roi (2015), which garnered the Best Actress Award for Emmanuelle Bercot, and an exploration, with ADN (DNA), of her Algerian roots alongside Fanny Ardant (2020), Maïwenn celebrates the legendary destiny of Jeanne du Barry, courtesan and favourite of King Louis XV: who was as flamboyant and daring as the director herself.

Shot on 35mm film, and mostly on location at the Château de Versailles when it was closed to the public on Mondays, Jeanne du Barry follows the incredible journey of a girl from humble origins who became the favourite of King Louis XV, and who would fall from grace in the years after his death.

Scriptwriter, director and main character of her film, Maïwenn dons the bodice of Jeanne du Barry and plays opposite the American actor Johnny Depp, to whom she gives the role of the King of France. The role required the actor, who already had a decent knowledge of French, to put in some work in advance of the shoot on his pronunciation of the language of Molière.

Alongside him Benjamin Lavernhe of the Comédie Française plays La Borde, the larger-than-life valet to the king, Melvil Poupaud is the Comte du Barry, Jeanne’s husband, Pierre Richard and Pascal Greggory have prominent supporting roles as the Duc de Richelieu and the Duc d’Aiguillon, and the young India Hair plays Adélaïde, the king’s daughter.

The soundtrack – as pivotal as it is in all of Maïwenn’s films – is by Stephen Warbeck, who also created the soundtracks for Polisse, Mon Roi and ADN (DNA). The classical-style music “which can be listened to without the film” was composed to contrast with the images as it does in Barry Lyndon, which is Maïwenn’s model of the perfect film.

Johnny Depp standing ovation

More Tasteful Than Torrid

“Kind of bland … It has a great setting, with many scenes shot in and around the real Palace of Versailles, and a great setup, with du Barry’s rags-to-riches-to-Roi Louis XV biography providing the main plot. But once all of that’s in place, Maïwenn doesn’t really do much with it… a classic Cinderella story decked out in outrageously expensive outfits… Barry Lyndon — clearly another major inspiration, right up to this film’s dry voiceover narrating all the major events — … the paradox of Jeanne du Barry is that, despite the daring life it’s based on and the daring casting of the semi-blacklisted Depp, this is a movie that winds up playing it too safe….” – Hollywood Reporter

“Opening up a gilded window onto Versailles under the Ancien Régime, the costume epic offers no shortage of luxury and no lack of visual delights …” – Yahoo

“A relatively classy venture about class, Jeanne Du Barry looks at a real-life instance of social climbing with playful exuberance and a serious subtext. The title character — played by director and co-screenwriter Maiwenn — did a lot of what simply isn’t done, and her bold gambles paid off. Calling upon American Johnny Depp to play King Louis XV could be viewed as stunt casting but one soon forgets he’s an unusual choice because, if there is not exactly chemistry between the leads, there is something pleasingly watchable. This is not great or memorable filmmaking but the power of the story and some of the performances make up for that. Opening Cannes Out of Competition, the film hits French theaters immediately.” – Screen International

Deadline Hollywood review

“Parallels with Sofia Coppola’s 2006 competition entry Marie Antoinette are not immediate, but they become clear soon enough… There’s also a little of Voltaire’s novel Candide in the irresistible rise of Jeanne Vaubernier (Maïwenn), the illegitimate child of a monk and a cook.” – Deadline Hollywood

Press conference Wednesday 17 May

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