Cannes Film Festival fraught with cryptic psychodrama

Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in The Meyerowitz Stories. Picture: Netflix/Atsushi Nishijima

Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in The Meyerowitz Stories. Picture: Netflix/Atsushi Nishijima - Credit: Archant

Meredith Taylor founder and editor of online film magazine Filmuforia rounds up the latest from the 70th Cannes Film Festival

Celebrating its 70th anniversary, the Cannes Film Festival got off to a dazzling start amid tightened security and the protection of French Navy frigates in the famous Baie des Anges.

The Palme D’Or award goes to the winning film selected by Jury President Pedro Almodovar and his team, which this year includes Paolo Sorrentino, Jessica Chastain and Will Smith. The Hollywood crowd is back with the megawatt star power of Clint Eastwood, Elle Fanning and Dustin Hoffman. And European film royalty is gracing the Croisette in the shape of Catherine Deneuve, Emma Thompson and Vanessa Redgrave. Tilda Swinton presented her anti-meat movie Okja with boos at the Netflix logo (a Palme D’Or winner must traditionally be shown in French cinemas) and Cannes Doyenne Isabelle Huppert stars in two festival films. TV-wise David Lynch sheds light on his intriguing cult series Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Jane Campion presents Top Of The Lake: China Girl.

The competition line-up has been fraught with cryptic psychodramas with critics favouring Ruben Ostlund’s horrifying social satire The Square starring Dominic West; Sergei Zvyaginsev’s apocalyptic thriller Loveless; and Yorgos Lanthimos’ stark and unsettling revenge thriller The Killing of a Sacred Deer (where no animals die). Robin Campillo’s 1990s-set AIDS drama 120 Beats Per Minute carries a heartfelt political message, but the critics have been divided by Todd Haynes’s 1970s set intergenerational drama Wonderstruck - some calling it trite, others transcendent; Hungarian Science-Fiction-Fi thriller Jupiter’s Moon is technically brilliant but narratively a mess. Other strong contenders for the prize are Michael Haneke’s Happy End a Calais-set dysfunctional family drama with migrant undercurrents, and Sofia Coppola’s disquieting abduction thriller The Beguiled. There was a muted response to a 60s portrait of Jean-Luc Godard by Lithuanian director Michel Hazanavicius. Godard himself is, characteristically, not amused.

Veteran directors paid homage to the 70th birthday celebrations in other sections of the festival: 89 year-old Agnes Varda with a photographic tribute to rural France Faces, Places; Roman Polanski’s literary adapted Based on a True Story starring wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Eva Green. And Claire Denis has screened her first comedy Let The Sunshine In to a standing ovation: it stars Juliette Binoche as a divorced artist looking for lasting love (you’ll chuckle rather than laugh out loud). Other biopics include Abel Ferrara’s Alive in France. West Hampstead’s Emma Thompson joins the starry cast of Noah Baumbach’s latest serio-comedy The Meyerowitz Stories where Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler deal with their own neuroses while managing a creative father who puts them all down. Stiller is well-off LA lawyer Matthew Meyerowitz, a half- brother to failed musician Danny (Sandler) and non-entity Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) They live close to their sculptor father Harold (Hoffman) whose party piece is bringing the conversation back to himself. Harold’s retrospective show brings the family back together in the Brooklyn home he shares with fourth wife Maureen, a scatty alcoholic played amusingly by Thompson. But the show is put in jeopardy when Dad suffers a brain trauma that makes his narcissism worse. The siblings find a certain love-hate solidarity as they struggle with the inevitable fallout, all operating from a position of shame; Danny feels a failure as an artist, although he’s a good father. Matthew fails by not being an artist, despite being a financial success; Jean has emerged from Harold’s negligent parenting never achieving anything, an act of self-sabotage; and they’re all latently angry with each other. Baumbach’s clever script ensures there’s plenty of dry humour, and even open wrestling, to lighten things up. With entertaining turns from Hoffman and Thompson and a soulful Sandler as the underdog, this is a film that will feel poignantly personal for many.

Cannes Film festival runs until May 28 when the Palme D’Or winner is announced