May 20th, 2024

A combustible Cannes is set to unfurl with ‘Furiosa,’ ‘Megalopolis’ and a #MeToo reckoning


By Jake Coyle, The Associated Press on May 11, 2024.

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Anya Taylor-Joy in a scene from "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga." The film will world premiere at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

The Cannes Film Festival rarely passes without cacophony but this year’s edition may be more raucous and uneasy than any edition in recent memory.

When the red carpet is rolled out from the Palais des Festivals on Tuesday, the 77th Cannes will unfurl against a backdrop of war, protest, potential strikes and quickening #MeToo upheaval in France, which for years largely resisted the movement.

Festival workers are threatening to strike. The Israel-Hamas war, acutely felt in France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish and Arab communities, is sure to spark protests. Russia’s war in Ukraine remains on the minds of many. Add in the kinds of anxieties that can be expected to percolate at Cannes – the ever-uncertain future of cinema, the rise of artificial intelligence – and this year’s festival shouldn’t lack for drama.

Being prepared for anything has long been a useful attitude in Cannes. Befitting such tumultuous times, the film lineup is full of intrigue, curiosity and question marks.

The Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, just days before his latest film, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” is to debut in competition in Cannes, was sentenced to eight years in prison by the Islamic Revolutionary Court. The film remains on Cannes’ schedule.

Arguably the most feverishly awaited entry is Francis Ford Coppola’s self-financed opus “Megalopolis.” Coppola, is himself no stranger to high-drama at Cannes. An unfinished cut of “Apocalypse Now” won him (in a tie) his second Palme d’Or more than four decades ago.

Even the upcoming U.S. presidential election won’t be far off. Premiering in competition is Ali Abbasi’s “The Apprentice,” starring Sebastian Stan as a young Donald Trump. There will also be new films from Kevin Costner, Paolo Sorrentino, Sean Baker, Yorgos Lanthimos and Andrea Arnold. And for a potentially powder keg Cannes there’s also the firebomb of “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.” The film, a rolling apocalyptic dystopia, returns director George Miller to the festival he first became hooked on as a juror.

“I got addicted it to simply because it’s like film camp,” says Miller, who became enraptured to the global gathering of cinema at Cannes and the pristine film presentations. “It’s kind of optimal cinema, really. The moment that they said, “˜OK, we’re happy to show this film here,’ I jumped at it.”

Cannes’ official opener on Tuesday is “The Second Act,” a French comedy by Quentin Dupieux, starring Léa Seydoux, Louis Garrel and Vincent Lindon. During the opening ceremony, Meryl Streep will be awarded an honorary Palme d’Or. At the closing ceremony, George Lucas will get one, too.

But the spotlight at the start may fall on Judith Godrèche. The French director and actor earlier this year said the filmmakers Benoît Jacquot and Jacques Doillon sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager, allegations that rocked French cinema. Jacquot and Doillon have denied the allegations.

Though much of the French film industry has previously been reluctant to embrace the #MeToo movement, Godrèche has stoked a wider response. She’s spoken passionately about the need for changes at the Cesars, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, and before a French Senate commission.

In that same period, Godrèche also made the short film “Moi Aussi” during a Paris gathering of hundreds who wrote her with their own stories of sexual abuse. On Wednesday, it opens Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section.

“I hope that I’m heard in the sense that I’m not interested in being some sort of representation of someone who just wants to go after everyone in this industry,” Godrèche said ahead of the festival. “I’m just fighting for some sort of change. It is called a revolution.”

It’s the latest chapter in how #MeToo has reverberated at the world’s largest film gathering, following an 82-woman protest on the steps of the Palais in 2018 and a gender parity pledge in 2019. Cannes has often come under criticism for not inviting more female filmmakers into competition, but the festival is putting its full support behind Godrèche while girding for the possibility of more #MeToo revelations during the festival.

“For me, having these faces, these people – everyone in this movie – gives them this place to be celebrated,” said Godrèche. “There’s this thing about this place that has so much history. In a way, it mystifies movies forever. Once your film was in Cannes, it was in Cannes.”

Some of the filmmakers coming to the festival this year are already firmly lodged in Cannes lore. Paul Schrader was at the festival almost 50 years ago for Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” which he wrote. After a famously divisive response, it won the Palme in 1976.

“It was a different place. It was much more collegial and lower key,” said Schrader during a break from packing his bags. “I remember quite well sitting on the terrasse at the Carlton with Marty and Sergio Leone and (Rainer Werner) Fassbender came by with his boyfriend and joined us. We were all talking and the sun was going down. I was thinking, “˜This is the greatest thing in the world.'”

For the first time since his 1988 drama “Patty Hearst,” Schrader is back in what he calls “the main show” – in competition for the Palme d’Or – with “Oh, Canada.” The film, adapted from a Russell Banks novel, stars Richard Gere (reteaming with Schrader decades after “American Gigolo”) as a dying filmmaker who recounts his life story for a documentary. Jacob Elordi plays him in ’70s flashbacks.

After the Cannes lineup was announced, Schrader shared on Facebook an old photo of himself, Coppola and Lucas – all primary figures to what was then called New Hollywood – and the caption “Together again.”

“I’ll be there the same time as Francis. There’s a question of whether either of us get invited back for closing,” Schrader says, referring to when award-winners are asked to stay for the closing ceremony. “I would hope that either Francis or I could come back closing night for George’s thing.”

Who ultimately goes home with the Palme – the handicapping has already begun – will be decided by a jury led by Greta Gerwig, fresh off the mammoth success of “Barbie.” But this year’s slate will have a lot to live up to. Last year, three eventual best picture nominees premiered in Cannes: Justine Triet’s Palme-winner “Anatomy of a Fall,” Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest” and Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

What tends to really define a Cannes, though, is emerging filmmakers. Among those likely to make an impression this year is Julien Colonna, the Corsican, Paris-based director and co-writer of “The Kingdom.” The film, an Un Certain Regard standout, is a brutal coming of age about a teenager girl (newcomer Ghjuvanna Benedetti) on the run with her father (Saveriu Santucci), a Corsican clan leader.

“We wanted to propose a kind of anti-mob film,” Colonna says, referencing the prevalence of “Godfather”-inspired gangster dramas. “As a viewer, I’m quite bored of this. I think we need to move to something else and propose a different prism.”

“The Kingdom,” Colonna’s debut feature film, arose out of his own anxieties around the birth of his child six years ago. It’s an entirely fictional movie but it has personal roots for Colonna, who was inspired by the memory of a camping trip that he realized years later was “an entirely different matter for my father.” He shot the most of the film in Corsica within a few miles of his hometown.

“This is where I grew up,” says Colonna, smiling. “This is where I learned to swim. The shower where her kiss takes place is the shower where I kissed for the first time.”

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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