The Cannes Ketchup: George Miller, Riley Keough, and Ali Abbasi Take the Spotlight

All the news and reviews from the 75th Cannes Film Festival, updated regularly.

by | May 23, 2022 | Comments

Join us daily as Rotten Tomatoes reports on all the goings-on at the Cannes Film Festival. We will break it all down from promising releases by new voices to experimental efforts from storied filmmakers to festival favorites for jury recognition– or perhaps the darling of “The Croisette” destined to go the distance for end-of-year accolades for you here.

In the south of France, Rotten Tomatoes breaks down the most significant news, acquisitions, early reactions, and other happenings from the 75th Cannes Film Festival every day. Check back here for ongoing updates, including the premieres of Top Gun Maverick, Baz Lurhman’s Elvis, and the Jerry Lee Lewis documentary from Ethan Coen, as well as new efforts from Claire Denis, George Miller, James Gray, and Riley Kelough and Squid Game’s Lee Jung-Jae making their directorial debuts.


Day One: Coupez! Cuts Up Opening Night and a Surprise Address from Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy

Romain Duris in Final Cut (2022)

(Photo by Lisa Ritaine/©Getaway Films)

Tuesday, May 16: The Cannes Film festival has begun, and the opening night film, Michel Hazanavicius’s Coupez! (aka Final Cut) arrived with slightly mixed reviews — a standard response for Cannes opening night. A remake of the Japanese director Shinichirô Ueda’s 2017 film One Cut of the Dead, a jaw-dropping genre mash-up featuring equal parts horror, action, and comedy, this French remake has many of the original’s beats, albeit employed less successfully. Currently at 64% on the Tomatometer, the film inspired Jordan Farley of Total Film to write,”Ueda’s film did it better – a fact that Hazanavicius is aware of but, to his credit, he’s smart enough to know that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

You might not expect Michel Hazanavicius (who collected two Oscars for Best Picture winner The Artist after its Cannes debut in 2011) to be upstaged on opening night at Cannes, but it was a live address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that ultimately moved the crowd. Many delegations drew parallels to the famous 1968 protests that closed the festival because, to quote the protest organizers, the “revolution was starting.” This year, Russian delegates have been banned from attending, and even the working title of the opening night film Z was scraped for its Russian propaganda ties. Still, the festival and many in attendance continue to raise awareness of continued hostilities against Ukraine whenever possible, with many events here on the ground benefiting the Ukrainian people.

This is all to say the shadow of war and unrest has been felt among everyone in attendance, but after a cancellation and a significantly pared down festival in 2021, many are happy to be in a theater and at a film festival for the first time in years.

Day Two: Top Gun Takes Flight, and Tom Cruise is Feted

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

(Photo by ©Paramount Pictures)

Wednesday, May 18: The second day of Cannes is when the festival accelerated and “headed into overdrive” (yeah, we said it) with Tom Cruise and much of the cast assembled for arguably the most anticipated film of the summer, Top Gun: MaverickThe film dazzled on the Riviera, and even here on the glitzy beaches of the South of France, we found more than a little bit of Top Gun fever creeping in, for good reason. In addition to the joys of watching the cast smile and wave on the red carpet, shortly before start time, four planes performed an unexpected fly-over that delighted onlookers and frightened others, like New York Times writer Kyle Buchannan, who reported:

Overall, however, nothing could dim the shine on Maverick here at a Cannes, as Tom Cruise was also honored by the festival. The Mission Impossible star also participated in an hourlong conversation beforehand, during which he noted that keeping the film under wraps amid the pandemic was difficult, but there was never any chance that it would not hit theaters. This, like much of the conversation, was not news to those assembled, but it was interesting to see the star speak that long in any setting, as he has avoided extended interviews for decades. Tomorrow will see James Gray’s semi-autobiographical tale starring Anthony Hopkins, Armageddon Time. Check back here for more updates and much more from the Cannes Film Festival.

Day Three: Armageddon Time earns raves at Cannes

ARMAGEDDON TIME stars Michael Banks and Anthony Hopkins

(Photo by Anne Joyce/Focus Features)

Thursday, May 19: James Gray has never been what you would call an auteur darling. His work is oftentimes a divisive effort, and his last film Ad Astra was the same, despite the pedigree of several Oscar-nominated stars, including Brad Pitt and Ruth Negga. Still, the Plan B production couldn’t muster enough support to get more than one single Oscar nomination for the entire film. Gray’s latest effort, Armageddon Time, is primed to have a similar reception but with more potential for Oscar gold as it is arguably his best and most accessible film to date.

A retelling of his experiences as a child and the privilege he enjoyed at the expense of others, the film serves as a rumination on White Privilege framed against those who suffer under the yoke of privilege. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “An unvarnished family snapshot that traces the seeds from which the artist evolved and the tough lessons about life’s unfairness that helped shape his character, this is a refreshingly understated drama whose gentleness makes it all the more bittersweet,” but in giving weight to opposing sentiments in regard to racism and absolution, the film found detractors like Clayton Davis of Variety, who wrote that he found several aspects of the storytelling offensive to the point of being “unforgivable” and instantly dismissed its Oscar chances. As it is a personal retelling that is likely to hit Academy voters (particularly older ones) in a place that transcends logic, we shall reserve judgment until the fall to see how it fares.

Whichever way its reception goes, it is shaping up to be one of the most talked-about titles for several months. The film’s current positive critical reception (Fresh at 92% with 26 reviews) and potential audience backlash is something we’ve seen before. Despite starring Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong, and Anne Hathaway, the ’80s period piece is on pace to meet the same fate as recent winners Green Book and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in terms of critical reception and backlash — that said, both took home hardware on Oscar night. So will AMPAS voters even care? We will just have to wait and see.

Day Four: Three Thousand Years of Longing Is a Big Swing from George Miller

Friday, May 20: Friday saw the fourth full day of films from the Cannes Film Festival and and a new film by George Miller, Three Thousand Years of Longing, was the premiere feature of the day. The two-hander starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton is the first big-budget feature from the Mad Max: Fury Road helmer since the six-time Oscar-winning feature was released in 2015. A modern-day fable about a confined magical being and ordinary woman who befriends him, it is currently Fresh at 69% on the Tomatometer. It serves as a big swing for Miller (a filmmaker known for big swings), but the film that its fast-paced, action-packed teaser alludes to is miles away from what is seen on screen. The actual premise might wind up disappointing some, though the quiet drama told through small vignettes is enjoyable but still a bit muddled, according to critics. Ed Potton of UK Times wrote, “I’m not sure what Miller is trying to say about desire and fulfilment, but Swinton and Elba are such soulful, beautiful creatures. Even if they don’t have physical chemistry, they share a sense of beguiling preposterousness.” But fear not if you were expecting more action from the “Mad Genius” George Miller, as he was also at Cannes to raise funds for his next two features: a sequel to Fury Road and the Furiosa-focused prequel. Tomorrow will see the premiere of the much anticipated Holy Spider from Border director Ali Abbasi.

Day Five: Ponies, Spiders, and Protests Take Center Stage

Today at Cannes the film on everyone lips was Holy Spider in part due to the film’s raucous reception, but also due to the large display from female protestors prior to the start of the film, one of two major protests by women during the festival. The tense and tragic political climate has been on full display on screen and on the lips of every attendee. Holy Spiders deals with a heavy subject matter, has been dubbed a quiet favorite, and is currently Certified Fresh at 93% on the Tomatometer. The film centers on a religious zealot and serial killer who goes on a quest to cleanse the city of prostitutes, but the murder spree he engages in goes largely unnoticed. The premise is an equally absurd and plausible scenario, Savina Petkova of Awardswatch wrote. “What’s more terrifying than the depictions of misogynistic violence is how the film manages to portray the feeling of absolute ease with which the killer could move in the world, that big and important parts of Iranian society support him on his mission,” Petkova wrote.

Riley Keough’s directing debut War Pony also screened. Keough’s first feature with her producing, writing, and directing partner Gina Gemmell debuts at the festival the same year as a biopic about Keough’s grandfather (Elvis) and a film from George Miller, director of Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie featuring the actress in her breakout role. A true family affair, War Pony centers on a group of indigenous first-time actors, and the story was created with and by them in concert with Keough and Gammell. War Pony is currently rated 91% on the Tomatometer, with Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter calling it, “A moving experiment in collective narrative filmmaking — an example of how stories can honor instead of exploit.”

Tomorrow will see the premiere of David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future a body-horror dystopian drama, starring Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, and Léa Seydoux.

Check in regularly for more updates from the Cannes Film Festival.

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