May 17, 2024

megalopolis, adam driver, francis ford coppola, cannes, hollywood authentic

Words by JANE CROWTHER


Megalon is a futurist building material developed by an architectural planning czar, Cesar (Adam Driver), in New Rome – New York with toga-esque clothes and a bacchanalian social scene – where a fight for power and ideology kicks off as Cesar defies the laws of physics and stops time, drops his ambitious gold-digging mistress, Wow (Audrey Plaza), for Mayor Cicero’s ‘wild’ daughter (Nathalie Emmanuel) and clashes with a political father/son opponents Crassus (Jon Voight) and Clodio (Shia LaBeouf). Throw into the mix psychedelic visuals, lush costumes, musical numbers, a theatrical tone and philosophical musings on Marcus Aurelius tracts, string theory and whether art freezes time… and Francis Ford Coppola’s self-funded passion project is certainly a big cinematic swing. In the Cannes screening, an actor walked in front of the stage mid–film to interact directly with Driver onscreen in a moment of multi-media bravado that begs the question of if it will be repeated at showings globally. For anyone complaining of algorithm-defined and IP-reliant entertainment, this is a major creative flex by one of cinema’s defining auteurs – refusing to bend to market positioning or easy interpretation. 

By the same token, Megalopolis has the potential to bemuse and confound. The narrative is labyrinthine, the dialogue rich and the tone straddling a line of high camp (LaBeouf, Plaza and Voight having got that memo) and earnest pomp that prompted titters. Cesar’s trajectory could be a trippy study of Robert Moses’ controversial planning of New York or a nod to Caligula, a fever dream, a comment on our cyclical mistakes as a human society, a deeply personal reflection on the creator’s own relationship with art – or indeed, all of these. Coppola offers no easy answers. What he does offer is LaBeouf with resplendent mullet and crackling energy, Plaza in fabulous vamp mode and some CGI dream-like visuals that pop on an IMAX screen. This is certainly not a The Godfather retread.

Expensive folly or artistic shot across the bows of cookie cutter, factory movies? An experience to be loved or loathed (there’s certainly no middle ground)? Whatever it is, Megalopolis shows a storied director at the height of his powers operating without a safety net.


Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis starring Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanel, Shia LaBeouf, Aubrey Plaza and Jon Voight is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Release date TBC

Words by JANE CROWTHER


Yorgos Lanthimos re-teams with his favourites (Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Joe Alwyn) and returns to the nihilist roots of Dogtooth in a bold, challenging triptych of tales that, in opposition to the title, explores the weird cruelties of humans. Each story is 45 minutes long and reconfigures his cast to different characters; in the first, ‘The Death Of RMF’, Robert (new collaborator Jesse Plemons), an executive, adheres to the specific rules of his boss (Dafoe), in living his life with his wife (Hong Chau). With every aspect of his existence determined – from how he dresses and eats to whether he has children and demands that he crash his car – Robert decides to flex his own autonomy and runs into a stranger (Stone). In the second, ‘RMF Is Flying’, a cop (Plemons) mourns his MIA wife (Stone) who disappeared on a boating trip with the comfort of friends (Margaret Qualley and Mamadou Athie) but questions whether she’s truly his spouse when she reappears. And in the third, ‘RMF Eats A Sandwich’, Stone and Plemons play the acolytes of a cult led by Dafoe’s sexually liberated lachrymose leader as they search for an individual who is destined to be the group’s messiah and bring people back from the dead.

Aside from repeated casts, there’s little to link the fables apart from a darkly humorous tone, plot points that show self-harm, control within relationships and a bleak outlook on the obsessions of humanity. Lanthimos invited audiences to find common threads themselves, taking reactions and feelings from one tale into the watching of another. It’s willfully and entirely subjective what each audience member may take from the process.

With a fully committed cast leaning into their roles and unafraid to court dislike (Stone, in particular is all guns blazing complicated in all her different guises), Lanthimos and his co-writer Efthimis Filippou scratch at the unpleasant and uncomfortable elements of relationships (romantic and otherwise) and society, making for some wince-inducing moments as characters make unreasonable demands on each other.

Like all of Lanthimos’ work, it defies easy categorisation or interpretation but fans of the more linear Poor Things may find Kinds Of Kindness a bewildering ride. Avant-garde, uncompromising and proudly opaque, it’s the sort of big-swing cinema that challenges audiences, is entirely unique and will provide much to discuss once the lights go up.

kinds of kindness, cannes dispatch, emma stone

Yorgos Lanthimos’s Kinds of Kindness staring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Jesse Plemons is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and will release in cinemas 28 June

Words by JANE CROWTHER


Adapted from cult Manga series City Of Darkness and boasting a who’s-who of Hong Kong talent, this Cannes midnight screening actioner brings the heat in dazzling set-pieces, inventive fisticuffs and a visceral evocation of Kowloon – the so-called Walled City that was a real-life hive of criminality and industry during the 80s. A stacked slum near Hong Kong’s airport, it’s a crepuscular warren of decrepit alleyways and mish-mashed materials that houses thousands of workers and a fearsome gang led by Cyclone (Louis Koo). It’s also the place that refugee Lok (Raymond Lam) runs to after double-crossed Mr Big (Sammo Hung) and his Triad goons. Penniless but tasty with his fists, Lok is taken under the wing of Cyclone – his shelter, protection and work unspoken training to becoming one of the overlord’s trusted men. As Lok rises the ranks via dust up with various assailants and household items, Mr Big attempts to storm the city, Kowloon landlord Chau (Richie Ren) seeks vengeance and psychotic enforcer King (Philip Ng) is out for blood. Kowloon is now a lethal powder keg and Lok will need to fight for his life…

Reputedly one of Hong Kong’s most expensive films ever made (budget: $40 miilion), Twilight Of The Warriors leaves everything out on the field in terms of inventive choreography, detailed production design and 80s-styled bang for your buck. Director Soi Cheang gives audiences a guided tour of the labyrinthine vertical slum (to the turn of Walking In The Air) so visceral one can almost taste the street food and smell the sewers – and gives each martial arts set-up room to breathe (while breaking everything in the room it’s happening in). Glass smashes into flesh, metal shards puncture guts, walls collapse, furniture is annihilated… and dropped cigarettes are caught in slo-mo during a roundhouse kick.

While Lam is the infatigable star, he’s nearly eclipsed by his nemesis, Philip Ng’s King – a giggling, seemingly indestructible sadist with a majestic mullet, Rayban sunglasses and a wardrobe like an extra from the Thriller video. As choreographer of the cavalcade of inventive martial arts moments, Ng pulls double duty as MVP. 

Ferocious, impressive dust-up (particularly one on a double decker bus) drive the action more than actual narrative but there’s a reason TOTW:WI has been a huge hit at the Hong Kong box office. As an action crowdpleaser it combines universal themes with a nostalgic specificity for Hong Kong during a key moment in its history. And at its core, it lauds community – wherever anyone might find it.


Soi Cheang’s Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled In starring Raymond Lam is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Out in cinemas 24 May

Words by JANE CROWTHER


Debut writer-director Agathe Riedinger’s sharply observed and slyly feminist drama is a Cinderella story for the influencer generation – a tale of good girls and dreams dressed up in boob jobs, stripper heels and TikTok dances. It focuses on 19 year-old Liane (Malou Khebizi, luminous) from Frejus who is manifesting being ‘the French Kim Kardashian’ via an audition for a scripted reality show that could boost her from her hard-scrabble existence living with a callous mother and bankrolling her club trips and cosmetic surgery with shoplifting. A self-assured hot mess who can handle the lascivious advances of passing men and sprint miles in her vertiginous diamante heels, Liane is aware that her self image and reality do not marry up. Having treated herself to breast enlargements, her carefully curated look of hair-extensions, heavy brows, glossy lips and provocative clothing put her on the short list for joining a dating reality show as well as being slut-shamed on public transport. But though she seems as hard as a diamond, this vulnerable teen has been in foster care, regularly prays, is a virgin and has high self-worth. 

It’s this dichotomy that fascinates Riedinger as her lens lingers on Liane’s body, her unwavering takes on the emotions fluttering across her lead’s face as Liane attends a clinical audition (and is made to strip to her underwear while being asked questions about standing up for herself), flirts with a local boy (who inevitably and disappointingly asks to see her breasts) and, in a seeming act of dangerous self-sabotage, crashes a wealthy party and offers to dance for a group of older men who literally stroke their thighs while watching her. As viewers we constantly worry for her as we watch her negotiate a world that is cruel and patriarchal, constantly waiting for the other (high heeled) shoe to drop. 

That Riedinger keeps us guessing as to whether Liane will transform into an insta princess is one of the intrigues of the film, but so is Khebizi, a first-time screen actor who inhabits the role so thoroughly and messily it’s impossible to not want the best for her. It’s also an empowering experience that feels like a fresh take on the madonna/whore complex. As Liane says defiantly; “if girls want to wear mini skirts and twerk in clubs they don’t deserve your scorn.” This one certainly doesn’t.


An impressive debut from both director and star – Wild Diamond marks two fledgling careers worth watching

Words by JAMES MOTTRAM


For years, George Miller’s post-apocalyptic saga has been all about Max Rockatansky. The Road Warrior – first played by Mel Gibson and, in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, by Tom Hardy – has been the iconic lone wolf at the heart of these films. But his latest chapter Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga flips it, brilliantly, switching focus to the breakout character from Fury Road

Played originally by Charlize Theron, Furiosa was every bit the equal to Max, as she led a posse of female escapees from The Citadel, the impregnable fortress ruled by the foul-looking Immortan Joe. Miller now backtracks fifteen years, giving us Furiosa’s origin story, in this thrilling blockbuster, packed to the rafters with insane action set-pieces perfectly tailored for the big screen.

Across five chapters, the film begins with Furiosa as a girl (Alyla Browne, who also featured in Miller’s Three Thousands Years of Longing). She falls into the hands of Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, ditching his Thor persona for some villainous fun), the leader of a gang of marauders who has designs on The Citadel and finding the “place of abundance” where Furiosa comes from.

When Dementus tortures and kills her mother in front of her, Furiosa’s fury rises, inspiring a quest for revenge that will stay with her for years, even after she is taken by Immortan Joe for his baby-producing harem. As she grows into a young woman (The Northman’s Anya Taylor-Joy), she learns how to cultivate her warrior skills, thanks in part to Tom Burke’s Praetorian Jack, a highly skilled driver for Immortan Joe who has completed more runs on Fury Road than anyone else. This all leads to the film’s staggering central sequence, an aerial attack on the armoured War Rig that includes predators on flying motorbikes. In one jaw-on-the-floor moment, a car even flips up onto the bonnet on the War Rig as it’s in full motion. If The Fall Guy, the recent movie with Ryan Gosling, suggests stunt men deserve an Oscar, the stunt team – led by Guy Norris – deserve every award going.

Likewise, the sheer craft on Furiosa – the costumes, the sets, the cinematography – astounds. And whether it’s a moody Burke or a menacing Hemsworth, the performances ace it. At its heart, Browne and Taylor-Joy shoulder the burden of bringing Furiosa to the screen with aplomb and, in their hands, she’s one of the great modern heroines of Hollywood action cinema.


George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga staring Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth and Alyla Browne is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and will release in cinemas 24 May

Words by JANE CROWTHER


Archly meta and reflexive, Quentin Dupieux’s cheeky comedy is precisely the sort of movie to open a film festival – with its fourth wall breaks, mid-scene appeals to film buffs and discussion on the purpose of art. Audiences for Cannes’ opening night film ate up a self-described indie that has plenty to say as its scatty characters seem to say nothing at all.

The Second Act of the title is a remote restaurant where a trembling, anxious waiter opens up and nervously flicks on the lights. On their way to his eaterie are two sets of characters – besties Willy (Raphaël Quenard) and David (Louis Garrel) who discuss the annoying girlfriend that David is trying to jettison as they stride down the road. That girlfriend, Florence (Lea Seydoux), is driving to meet them at the titular rendezvous with her Papa (Vincent Lindon), convinced David is ‘the one’. But before any sort of narrative can form, David and Willy discuss trans women and bisexuality and address the camera directly as they worry about their opinions having the potential to cancel them. Meanwhile, in the car, Florence’s father quits the film production we are watching and argues that acting and filmmaker are ridiculous artifice, pointless in a violent world of war and poverty. That waiter at the restaurant awaits their arrival, his anxiety rising for his big break as a featured background artist, and the ‘director’ is an AI app…

Like a cinematic onion, The Second Act continually sheds its artistic layers, keeping audiences on their toes in questioning what’s ‘real’ and the value of the seventh art. Even if you don’t like this, Dupieux seems to be saying, cinema is vital; ‘movies are cool!’ Seydoux argues at one point and a dolly track is lensed with love. The device of constantly upending expectation with cast/characters spatting about semantics and talking in circles is simultaneously self-indulgent and self-aware but makes some spiky points about the disenfranchisement of artists, the rise of algorithms and the value of acting (Seydoux’s actress calls her mother at one point to blub about her day while her heart surgeon mum saves lives). And despite some dextrous physical comedy from Manuel Guillot as the waiter with serious pouring issues, the film ends with a violent, bleak act that is open to interpretation.

Brisk at under 90 minutes, The Second Act is a slight concoction that plays like a successor to Woody Allen and asks viewers to take nothing too seriously. Unless it’s a call from Paul Thomas Anderson…


Quentin Dupieux’s The Second Act starring Lea Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Raphaël Quenard and Vincent Lindon  is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Release date TBC