FNE at Cannes 2023: Out of Competition: Jeanne Du Barry (France)

    Jeanne du Barry by Maïwenn Jeanne du Barry by Maïwenn source: Cannes FF Press Materials

    CANNES: Jeanne du Barry, the out of competition opening film of Cannes Film Festival directed by Maïwenn, is likely to be overshadowed by the return to the embrace of major production by Johnny Depp. It could hardly be called a comeback as Depp never really left the limelight although he did lose out on some of his Hollywood contracts as his acrimonious and globally publicised court case with ex-partner Amber Heard was probably more watched than any of his fictional screen appearances.

    This lush French period drama makes an ideal vehicle for Depp, who learned French to play the role.

    This is the fourth film in the Official Selection of Cannes for Maïwenn, who racked up the Cannes Jury Prize in 2011 for her film Polisse and Mon Roi (2015), which won the Best Actress Award for Emmanuelle Bercot. That the director opted to have the screen out of competition is a sign of her confidence in the success of her growing reputation.

    Maïwenn takes up the story of the legendary courtesan Jeanne du Barry, the favourite of King Louis XV. Among her detractors was the King’s wife, especially when one of those enemies was Marie Antoinette played here by Pauline Pollmann.

    The film opens with a scene of an article in the French countryside painting the young girl, Jeanne Vaubernier, who was singled out at an early age for her beauty. But Jeanne was determined to use her beauty and charm to climb the social ladder and escape from poverty.

    She starts her career as the lover of the Comte du Barry played by Melvil Poupaud, who picked her out as a young child and educated her at a convent school  Now he wishes to present her to the King and sets up a meeting at court. The meeting pays off beyond his wildest dreams as Louis XV falls in love with Jeanne at first sight. Smitten totally the King makes her his official favourite but Jeanne’s humble origins means no one wants her at court. While Jeanne rides high and no one can touch her as long as she is the favourite despite the scandal at court, when the King dies she falls from grace and nothing can save her.

    The lush period drama was shot on location mostly at the Château de Versailles. Maïwenn is scriptwriter, director and also plays the leading role of Jeanne opposite Johnny Depp as King Louis XV and rumours have abounded that she cast herself in this role just because she wanted to play the lover of Depp. Depp as always is an actor of a unique originality. And the question does arise whether or not she was really the best choice for the role. 

    The film is enhanced by a soundtrack by Stephen Warbeck, who also created the soundtracks for Polisse, Mon Roi and ADN (DNA).

    Jeanne du Barry (France)
    Directed by Maïwenn
    Cast: Maïwenn, Johnny Depp, Benjamin Lavernhe, Pierre Richard, Melvil Poupaud, Pascal Greggory, India Hair, Suzanne de Baecque, Capucine Valmary, Diego Le Fur, Pauline Pollmann, Micha Lescot, Noémie Lvovsky, Marianne Basler, Robin Renucci