Critic Notebook: At Cannes, a plea for the variety of cinema

May 31, 2022, 12:41 AM | Updated: 12:48 pm
Guillermo del Toro, left, and Claude Lelouch appear on screen as they and other film industry profe...

Guillermo del Toro, left, and Claude Lelouch appear on screen as they and other film industry professionals gather to celebrate the 75th anniversary ceremony of the Cannes international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

(AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

One of the most viral moments from the 75th Cannes Film Festival, which wrapped over the weekend with the presentation of the Palme d’Or to Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” wasn’t a slip on the red carpet or those fighter jets that flew over Tom Cruise’s head. It was the director James Gray making a thoughtful argument for how mainstream moviemaking can be more than superheroes.

Gray, who premiered his autobiographical ’80s coming-of-age film “Armageddon Time” at Cannes, drew widespread applause for comments suggesting that Hollywood studios should be willing to lose money on less franchise-based modes of moviemaking to help expand, not narrow, the moviegoing audience.

“Somebody has to speak to the other side,” Gray told me the morning after “Armageddon Time” premiered. “It’s how you keep the broad-based interest in the medium. If you only focus on one sliver and do it over and over and over again, you’re in big trouble. Then people stop thinking about cinema as a broad art form with many different iterations with many windows unto the world.”

Cannes’ windows unto the world aren’t without their own obstructions. The festival can sometimes feel too codified in a male auteur version of arthouse. But it remains one of the most globe-spanning, thrillingly elastic displays of cinema’s possibilities.

Because of its scope and unique position as a self-styled temple of cinema, Cannes often serves as a referendum on the movies and a French Riviera barricade against the tides of change. That was especially true this year. For the 75th anniversary, Cannes assembled a cast of filmmakers to debate the medium’s future. Guillermo del Toro, who spearheaded the effort, pronounced today’s movie structures “not sustainable.”

“We are finding that it is more than the delivery system that is changing. It’s the relationship to the audience that is shifting,” said Del Toro. “Do we hold it, or do we seek and be adventurous?”

The questions posed by Del Toro and others were no doubt salient ones for anyone making or watching film today to consider. But often, the best answers were found on screen, where the spectrum of cinema exhibited was intoxicatingly vast. Yes, there were big-budget spectacles (Joseph Kosinski’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis”) that made plenty of noise. But, unlike at the multiplex, they weren’t the only show in town. The big movies existed alongside a seemingly limitless marquee, full of discoveries.

There was the imaginative thrill of South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s twisty noir, “Decision to Leave,” a love story wrapped in a police procedural. There was the sober examinations of Cristian Mungiu’s “R.M.N.,” a Romanian microcosm of xenophobia that builds to a powerhouse town hall scene and a devastatingly lyrical final shot. There was the aching melancholy of Mia Hansen-Løve’s “One Fine Morning,” an intimate Paris drama about a single mother ( a magnificent Lea Seydoux ) with a dying father that manages to hold life and death, love and solitude in the tender palm of its hand.

Those filmmakers have all been in Cannes before, and will likely be so again. But one of the most exciting jolts of this year’s festival came from the debut, in Cannes’ Critics Week section, of Scottish writer-director Charlotte Wells. Her “Aftersun,” starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio, is a father-daughter tale told with such deftness that it eludes all the usual cliches of that relationship. If there was ever a good reason to hope that the movies have a stable future, it’s the emergence of filmmakers like Wells.

That highlights like “Aftersun” and “One Fine Morning” came from sidebar sections in Cannes, rather than its main 21-film competition lineup, was itself a reminder that finding the best stuff today can require looking beyond the movies’ main stages.

That’s only truer back home, away from Cannes’ Cote d’Azur fantasyland. The movies have been clawing their way back in theaters after two years of pandemic and, with the outlook for streaming services not quite as rosy as they once were, big-screen moviegoing has some momentum. Still, the usual offerings on a Saturday night at the box office speak more to market saturation than variety. Over Memorial Day weekend, “Top Gun: Maverick” opened on a record 4,735 screens in North America.

In such an environment, what’s the post-Cannes afterlife for films that stood out in France? Companies like A24, which picked up the Barry Jenkins-produced “Aftersun” as well as Lukas Dhont’s boyhood drama “Close,” have found novel ways of reaching large audiences. The boutique studio recently notched its biggest hit with the gleefully original “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Sony Pictures Classics, which is banking on adult audiences continuing to return to theaters, acquired “One Fine Morning.” Neon, which took the 2019 Palme d’Or winner “Parasite” all the way to best picture at the Academy Awards, bought its third Palme-winner in a row in Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” a riotous eat-the-rich satire co-starring Woody Harrelson. Ostlund described his film as the melding of arthouse and Hollywood sensibilities.

Those distributors will hope there is an appetite for something different than what’s usually served up in theaters.

“Man cannot live by Batman alone,” Luhrmann said, while praising Matt Reeves’ “The Batman.”

Tom Hanks, taking the same example from his “Elvis” director, told me he, too, thought “The Batman” was great. But it left him pondering.

“I did also have to think: Are we supposed to forget all those other Batman movies that came out?” asked Hanks, who has usually steered clear of sequels and reboots. “Are they really saying, ‘Who’s that guy?’ when Batman walks in the room? I know who Batman is. Don’t these people know who Batman is?

“There is something magnificent and always will be about the movie that stands on its own,” added Hanks.

There were plenty other films at Cannes that stood resolutely on their own. One was Kelly Reichardt’s wry “Showing Up,” Reichardt’s fourth film with Michelle Williams and a particularly definitive movie for the 58-year-old indie filmmaker of low-key, minimalistic indies. Williams plays a Portland-based artist named Lizzy that, not unlike Reichardt, sculpts modestly scaled portraits of women, only her medium is ceramics. Preparing for a small gallery show, Lizzy juggles various nuisances and distractions but, like Reichardt, in the end makes something genuinely personal, and worth showing up for.

___

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

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalatio...
Associated Press

Top EU official vows to ‘stress test’ pipelines after leaks

BRUSSELS (AP) — The head of the European Union’s executive arm vowed Wednesday to introduce checks on key EU infrastructure, including energy, after the suspected sabotage of natural-gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the damage last week to the Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Germany has […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Iran says detained Iranian-American, 85, heading to Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An 85-year-old Iranian-American held by Iran left the country Wednesday for Oman, state media reported. The state-run IRNA news agency published video of Baquer Namazi boarding a Royal Oman air force jet, apparently in Tehran. It said Namazi left the country Wednesday. Tehran said late Tuesday that Oman had […]
1 day ago
FILE - An Afghan refugee boy carries a bag of mangoes on his shoulder in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday,...
Associated Press

Amnesty: Creditors should provide debt relief to Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — International creditors should provide debt relief to Sri Lanka to alleviate suffering as its people endure hunger, worsening poverty and shortages of basic supplies, Amnesty International said in a statement Wednesday. For months, Sri Lanka has been in the grip of a dire economic crisis and the country has defaulted […]
1 day ago
FILE - The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen outside of...
Associated Press

OPEC+ weighs large oil cutback to boost sagging prices

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The OPEC+ alliance of oil-exporting countries on Wednesday will debate a potentially large cut in the amount of crude it ships to the global economy — a move that could help Russia weather a looming European ban on oil imports and raise gasoline prices for U.S. drivers just ahead of national […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pakistan’s army chief meets with US defense secretary

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s powerful military chief met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other security and government officials, the military said. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s trip to the United States comes weeks before he’s expected to retire after an extended six-year tenure. Although Pakistan has been ruled by the elected civilian […]
1 day ago
A malnourished child sits at a clinic in Dollow, Somalia, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. Within week...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: A look at famine and its toll as Somalia at risk

DOLLOW, Somalia (AP) — Within weeks, a famine could be declared in Somalia, affecting more than 850,000 people in two of the country’s worst drought-affected areas plus thousands of people in displacement camps. Such a declaration by the United Nations and partners is rare and a sign of the dire consequences from the worst drought […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Critic Notebook: At Cannes, a plea for the variety of cinema