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Highlights from Day 1 of the Cannes Film Festival

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For its opening film, the Cannes organizers have opted for each star power and potential controversy with “Jeanne du Barry,” a French costume drama that’s Johnny Depp’s first major film since winning a bitter defamation trial last 12 months.

Directed by and starring Maïwenn, the film centers on a young woman as she climbs from humble origins to turn out to be Madame du Barry, the favourite of King Louis XV of France, who Depp plays in a white wig and powdered face.

The trial between Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard riveted the world last 12 months because the actress aired allegations of physical and sexual abuse. Depp denied the claims, asserting that she was the true aggressor in the connection. (A judge in Britain had ruled in an earlier case that there was evidence that Depp had assaulted Heard.)

The jury in Virginia largely sided with Depp, finding that Heard had defamed him when she described herself in a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Heard initially appealed the decision, but then announced last 12 months that she intended to settle the dispute.

The announcement last month that “Jeanne du Barry” could be screening after the Cannes opening ceremony sparked division online, with some criticizing the festival organizers (the hashtag #CannesYouNot circulated together with the news), while Depp’s devoted fan base celebrated it as an indication of the actor’s comeback.

The festival’s director, Thierry Frémaux, said in an interview with Variety last month that he didn’t view the film as a divisive selection. “We only know one thing, it’s the justice system and I feel he won the legal case,” he said within the interview. “However the movie isn’t about Johnny Depp.”

In a news conference on Monday, Frémaux said he had little interest in the defamation trial, noting, “I care about Johnny Depp as an actor,” based on The Hollywood Reporter.

On Tuesday, the French newspaper Libération published an open letter, signed by greater than 100 actors, that accused the festival, and the broader film industry, of not properly shutting people accused of assault and abuse out of the event. Depp was not mentioned by name.

“Obviously, it doesn’t come from nowhere that individuals who abuse, harass and violate are offered a spot on the red carpet of this festival,” the letter reads. “It’s a symptom of a world system.”

While the flicks which have most defined Depp’s profession involve eccentric leads who dominate the film (including Sweeney Todd and Willy Wonka), in “Jeanne du Barry” he takes a secondary role to Maïwenn, whose film “Polisse” won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011. Depp appeared on the festival that very same 12 months within the fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

In the course of the trial, lawyers for Depp argued that Heard’s op-ed in The Washington Post had destroyed the actor’s film profession, saying that after it was published, he was not in a position to book a studio film. Heard’s side countered that his pattern of bad publicity and behavior on sets was at fault for any downturn in his profession.

After the trial, Depp quickly re-entered the general public sphere, playing live shows with Jeff Beck in Europe and appearing in a fashion show backed by Rihanna. But that is his first major return to the film industry.

“Jeanne du Barry” will definitely have significant exposure in France, where it opens in theaters on Tuesday and can later appear there on Netflix.

No plans have been announced for distribution in the USA.

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