Rotten Tomatoes is in the south of France to break down the biggest news, acquisitions, early reactions, and other happenings coming out of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival every day. Check back here for ongoing updates including the premieres of Quentin Tarantino’s latest Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, the Elton John fantasy biopic Rocketman, and The Witch director Robert Eggers’ sophomore effort, The Lighthouse.
Thursday, May 23: The penultimate day of the Cannes Film Festival brought us the fest’s first universally panned film. In 2013, Abdellatif Kechiche picked up a Palme d’Or for his lesbian coming-of-age story, Blue Is the Warmest Color; though the film was lauded by the Cannes jury, the reception cooled later on as many objected its graphic – some would argue gratuitous – sex scenes. (There also followed a very public falling out between the director and his lead actress, Léa Seydoux.) This year Kechiche took things to a new level with his four-hour continuation 2017’s Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno, Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo (2019) 10%. The extraordinarily long competition entry has the dubious honor of being the first film of the festival to register a 0% on the Tomatometer, making it the lowest-ranking film on our Cannes Scorecard. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich delivered a pun-filled pan that described the Tunisian’s director’s tale of a steamy night at a Parisian nightclub as a “booty sweat symphony.” Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times went further, calling it a “feat of maddeningly indulgent non-storytelling hiding behind a symphony of bared midriffs and jiggling derrières.” So, it’s a “symphony” or something.
Wednesday, May 22: Day 10 of the Cannes film festival was an all-the-café conversation focused on who will take home the top prize. Current Palme d’Or frontrunners Portrait of a Girl on Fire, Pain & Glory, and Les Misérables got some new competition late Tuesday night with premiere of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (Gisaengchung) (2019) 99%. The Korean director’s follow-up to 2016’s Okja is an instant critical darling that earned “rapturous bursts of applause not just at the end of its critics’ screening, but also in the middle of it,” according to Vulture. Jessica Kiang of Variety called Bong’s social thriller “Roaringly furious, because [its] target is so deserving…Parasite is a tick fat with the bitter blood of class rage.” With just one day of competition films left before the closing night ceremony, most of the pundits agree one of the favorites above will walk away with the top prize – well unless Tarantino can pull off a shocker with Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
Wednesday, May 22: The buzz and spectacle of the Once Upon A Time in Hollywood premiere undoubtedly stole some attention away from Parasite’s impressive debut: two days after the fictionalized retelling of the Manson Family murders debuted, it’s still dominating the festival headlines. Reports broke late on Tuesday night that hundreds of ticket holders were turned away from the premiere; as some had paid as much as $1,200 to secure one ticket to the starry event, and many members of the press were among those turned away, the festival was forced to issue an apology for the mixup. Then Wednesday afternoon Tarantino continued to make headlines during a press conference when he “rejected the hypothesis” of a question that said Margot Robbie had limited dialogue portraying the Manson Family murder victim, Sharon Tate. The Aussie actress, however, was quick to counter the assumption saying, “I think the moments I was on screen gave a moment to honor Sharon, I think the tragedy was the loss of innocence. To show the wonderful sides of her could be done without speaking. I did feel like I got a lot of time to explore the character without dialogue, which is an interesting thing. Rarely do I get an opportunity to spend so much time on my own as a character.”
Tuesday, May 21: The moment that all of Cannes – and just about everyone else – had been waiting for finally arrived on Monday night, when Quentin Tarantino premiered his ninth studio film, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (2019) 85%, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie. Before the curtains parted for the screening of the Hollywood drama that’s loosely based on the Manson Family’s murder of Sharon Tate and others, Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux reiterated (in English and French) Tarantino’s plea to avoid spoilers when discussing the film. It’s debatable if such precautions were needed, but as of yet, most critics are keeping the key plot points out of reviews. Angeleno Tarantino was six years old when the Manson Murders rocked Hollywood and the nation, and critics are calling Once Upon A Time in Hollywood a deeply personal and violent ode to the summer of ’69. While 1960s Hollywood played out on the screen, today’s Hollywood looked: Timothée Chalamet, Chloe Sevigny, Diego Luna, Xavier Dolan, Tilda Swinton, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Chris Tucker, and Adrien Brody were all spotted at the premiere. Tarantino’s close friend and Grindhouse co-director Robert Rodriguez was also on hand to congratulate and celebrate with cast and crew and gave us his one-word review: “Outstanding!”
After enjoying a six-minute standing ovation at the premiere, Pitt, DiCaprio, and Tarantino headed to a glitzy after-party at the JW Marriott joined by most of the star power on the Rivera. During the party, Tarantino chatted with guests about film, Cannes memories, and was in high spirits. When we caught up with him, we asked if he wanted to know the Tomatometer score for the film (which we had just revealed), and he quickly recoiled as if we were about to shout a spoiler to his film. “Oh God, no!” he said, laughing. “If they’re bad I wanna enjoy my night, and if they’re good, it’s a gift. A gift I will happily unwrap – tomorrow.”
Monday, May 20: Everyone is worried about spoilers these days – even legendary director Quentin Tarantino. After a script for The Hateful Eight leaked before production began, forcing the director to make significant changes, Tarantino is taking no chances with his latest film. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (2019) 85%, the A-lister–stuffed ’60s period feature starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie, premieres Tuesday and has been shrouded in mystery. Little is known of the plot, save that it will feature numerous late 60’s icons such as Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, Sharon Tate, and her infamous murderer Charles Manson. Speaking to Rotten Tomatoes to promote his film The Mustang earlier in the year, costar Bruce Dern said, “All I can say is — this is me telling you — he’s a magician, because in this movie, he did something mad. It’s probably the most unique endeavor I’ve seen a director undertake and do. Without ruining the movie for you — I can’t tell you what that is, but the minute you get to see it, you will say, ‘Bruce Dern is absolutely right.’” Hoping to keep the movie’s surprises under wraps as long as possible, Tarantino posted an open letter asking those that see it first to be mindful of spoilers, adding, “The cast and crew have worked so hard to create something original, and I only ask that everyone avoids revealing anything that would prevent later audiences from experiencing the film in the same way.” Rotten Tomatoes has secured a coveted ticket to the glamorous premiere, so check back here on Tuesday for the first reviews and a detailed recounting of the star-studded premiere and afterparty.
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Monday, May 20: Late Monday also saw the premiere of Isabelle Huppert’s latest film, Ira Sachs’ Frankie (2019) 59%. Following the misadventures of a French family on an ill-advised vacation in the Portuguese countryside, Frankie is a melodrama about family, death, and disappointed hopes. The film has received mostly positive reviews, and even the mixed reactions have nothing but praise for the French actress’ performance. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter remarked how Huppert “draws with equal grace from her well of dry humor, flinty intelligence, diva hauteur and internalized sorrow.” Frankie may not be strong enough to compete with frontrunner Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) (2020) 98% for the Palme d’Or, but Huppert is a now very much in contention for the Prix d’interprétation féminine (Best Actress).
Sunday, May 19: The Witch director Robert Eggers’ new film, The Lighthouse (2019) 90%, is being dubbed a gothic horror masterpiece. Utilizing 1940s camera techniques – it’s shot in black-and-white on 35mm film – the atmospheric thriller is earning praise on the Riviera. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian lauded the cinematography: “This is a sublime film visually: Eggers and [cinematographer Jarin] Blaschke imagine a glorious variety of images from this stark and unforgiving place.” Robert Pattinson, who costars in the film with Willem Dafoe, held an extended Q&A with Eggers and Dafoe following the early Sunday morning premiere. In an earlier interview, the Good Time actor confessed the shoot was so grueling he contemplated punching Eggers on a couple of occasions; in the Q&A, Eggers gave more details on the hellish shooting location. “We shot on the southern tip of Nova Scotia on this peninsula volcanic rock, Cape Forchu. We built a 70-foot working lighthouse that could shine for 16 miles…Forchu was a very unforgiving place. There are no trees and the wind [was] relentless.”
Sunday, May 19: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) (2020) 98%, which director Celine Sciamma has called a lesbian version of The Piano, also premiered on Sunday and has a few critics betting that Sciamma may become the first female director since Jane Campion to win the coveted Palme d’Or. Wendy Ide called the period romance, “A vivid, full-blooded oil portrait of the stolen romantic relationship between two young women.”
Saturday, May 18: The highlight of day five at Cannes was the premiere of the first two episodes of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Too Old to Die Young, starring Miles Teller. Amazon’s 10-episode detective thriller is one of a few streaming titles screening during the festival, though none are “in competition.” The Drive director has employed his signature elements – muted dialogue and stylized cinematography – for the series, which wowed critics on the Riviera. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the series four stars and called it, “Hypnotically horrible and upsetting, with terse lines, tense pauses, dead-eyed glares, all conducted at the andante pace of a zombie continuing to move after being shot – and delivering a doomy, sepulchral, and very plausible evocation of pure evil.” Describing his latest work as a 13-hour movie, Refn joined Cannes jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu in his praise for streaming content. “Streaming is an ocean of possibilities…The difference between streaming and more traditional theatrical is that streaming is an energy flow around us that runs 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and we can tap into and consume it whenever we want. That is a whole new ideology for how to exist.”
Saturday, May 18: Quentin Tarantino made his first red carpet appearance of the festival at the premiere of The Wild Goose Lake (Nan fang che zhan de ju hui) (2020) 92%. It’s just two days away from his premiere of the highly anticipated Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, the most anticipated title at the festival. Tarantino is possibly the only director this week who could command a standing ovation for walking into a screening of someone else’s film.
Friday, May 17: Rumors lit up “le Croisette” on Thursday afternoon, when reports broke that Robert Pattinson was in final talks to don the cape and cowl for Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman. Shortly after the news came out, Pattinson landed in Cannes ahead of the premiere of his latest film, The Lighthouse (2019) 90%, from The Witch director Robert Eggers. The Lighthouse centers on two lighthouse keepers – played by Pattinson and Willem Dafoe – on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. The internet and critics seem split on the Batman casting news: those who have kept up with British actor’s post-Twilight filmography seem mostly pleased; those who only remember his Edward Cullen days much less so. The Pattinson news was first reported by Variety, but later conflicting reports said the actor has yet to officially land the role and that Nicholas Hoult (currently in theaters in Tolkien) is also on shortlist to play Bruce Wayne.
Friday, May 17: In the acquisitions market, Netflix – which is still barred from the competition section of the festival – made news earlier in the week by picking up a new romantic comedy, Love. Wedding. Repeat, a wedding-set rom-com starring Sam Claflin and Olivia Munn. The early pickup signals the streaming giant’s continued commitment to the genre they have helped revitalize with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Set It Up. The movie is one of several romantic comedies in the market for 2019 – rom-com projects starring Drew Barrymore, Isla Fisher, James Caan, and Blockers breakout Geraldine Viswanathan are all being sold.
Thursday, May 16: One of the buzziest titles of festival, the fantastical Elton John biopic Rocketman (2019) 89%, premiered Thursday night. The word after the star-studded premiere has many pointing to Egerton as a (ridiculously) early Best Actor contender. Dan Wooton of The Sun raved about the Kingsman star’s portrayal: “[He] excels as Elton to the point he seems to become him…bringing new life to classics like ‘Your Song’ and ‘I’m Still Standing.’” As the credits rolled, and the crowd leapt to its feet for a standing ovation, both Egerton and John were spotted wiping away tears alongside cast mates Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, and director Dexter Fletcher. Later, at the Rocketman after party, Egerton joined John on stage for a live rendition of the title track. In the crowd we spotted Miles Teller, Chris Tucker, and Joe Russo all enjoying the impromptu concert. Coming to Cannes to promote Cherry, Russo told us that he was incredibly impressed by Egerton: “It is a rare find to discover an actor who can sing like that and is also a compelling actor – it’s extraordinary.”
Taron Egerton and Elton John singing Rocket Man. Just wow. pic.twitter.com/L6p5846yFE
— Tatiana Siegel (@TatianaSiegel27) May 16, 2019
Thursday, May 16: Thursday kicked with a historic first: actress turned director Mati Diop premiered Atlantics (2019) 96% in the afternoon, becoming the first Black female director in competition for the Palme d’Or in the festival’s history. Atlantique is another film that leans into fantasy elements, though it grounds its ghost story in some harsh realities. Tim Robey of The Telegraph praised the cinematography of the genre-bending romance: “A slippery elegance [and] an ambitious way of nudging its nose into magic realism, and unforgettable images.” Writing for Variety, Leslie Felperin described the film as “striking,” and argued it would stand out among the competition at Cannes.
Wednesday, May 15: Wednesday was the first full day of the Cannes International Film Festival, which runs from May 13 to 26. Tuesday’s Opening Night film, the Jim Jarmusch horror-comedy The Dead Don't Die (2019) 55%, has critics split with “You are likely to walk out thinking it’s the only zombie movie Jarmusch could have made. I wish that were more of a compliment.” Despite the somewhat underwhelming reception, star Bill Murray seems to be having a blast in the south of France with new best friend and co-star Selena Gomez, and his recent words about returning to the Ghostbusters franchise have all of the internet buzzing. “[Ghostbusters] paid for my son’s college,” the Lost in Translation star joked to IndieWire, adding: “We made this thing. We are the caretakers.” Here’s hoping the director of 2020’s Ghostbusters, Jason Reitman, has seen the news.
Wednesday, May 15: The biggest breakout films of the festival so far are two violent tales of uprisings (Bacurau (Nighthawk) (2020) 91% and Les Misérables (2020) 85%). In Nighthawk (Bacurau), a tiny Brazilian town is under bloody siege in a mashup of Seven Samurai and The Raid; Tim Robey of The Telegraph says the “combination of satire and savagery is pretty fierce and intriguingly unique.” Other critics are calling it “perplexing,” “propulsive,” and “sublimely unusual.” Co-director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s previous film, Aquarius, is Certified Fresh at 97%; his co-director, Juliano Dornelles, makes his directing debut. Meanwhile, Les Misérables has Guy Lodge of Variety harking back to a previous Palme d’Or hopeful; Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. The movie was inspired by the 2005 Paris riots, and is set in the outer suburb of Montfermeil, where Victor Hugo famously set sections of his novel, Les Misérables.
Check in daily for more updates from the Cannes Film Festival.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival