The honeymoon phase is waning across the French Riviera, as the Cannes Film Festival shirks bonjours and gets to the business of its annual contribution to global film.
Translation: everyone’s screening schedule is packed, no one is eating or sleeping and you’re lucky if you catch a passing glimpse at Rihanna on the Croisette.
But a French lens on the AIDS crisis has moved many critics, we have 2017’s potential “Toni Erdmann” and Netflix boss Ted Sarandos was not shackled Jean Valjean-style for showing his face.
“120 Beats” Strikes Critical Chords
In America, there is an esteemed (if not excessively familiar) narrative canon that documents the rise and devastation of HIV/AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s — Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” the recently adapted ‘The Normal Heart,” the forgotten VHS-era gem “And the Band Played On.”
This year’s Cannes competition slate offers “120 Beats Per Minute,” which perhaps for the first time shows us the pandemic’s impact on a French community of queer brothers and sisters, specifically the country’s branch of the ACT UP movement. Its effect was devastating.
Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson called it “a vital contribution to queer and political cinema, a testament to crusaders of recent history whose nobility does not overshadow their complicated and individual humanity.”
Lawson also saluted the film’s unflinching approach to gay sex — which, demonstratively, is getting closer to reality all the time — as “frank and even-handed, allowing for all its beauty and danger, its capacity for release, for connection, even for protest.”
TheWrap’s Ben Croll praised director Robin Campillo for recognizing “that the fervent intensity that drives someone to become an activist — that burning passion to make the world a better place — is the same passion that can cause schisms and acrimony with equally like-minded associates.”
Also, can the U.S. import one if its stars, Arnaud Valois? Asking for a friend.
— erickohn (@erickohn) May 20, 2017
Widely Palme-tipped 120 BEATS PER MINUTE lacks game for me except in the sex scenes, and when it's funny. Solid and sincere, not outstanding
— Tim Robey (@trim_obey) May 20, 2017
Totally absorbed by 120 BEATS PER MINUTE, a supple, smashing depiction of an ACT UP group in Paris. Best so far at #Cannes2017
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) May 20, 2017
Few films I'd call vital but 120 BEATS PER MINUTE is just that. Dancing /fucking /protesting as 1. Unforgettable. Best of comp. #Cannes2017
— Elena Lazic (@elazic) May 20, 2017
You might have heard that a lot of people have a lot to say about the inclusion of Netflix in the Cannes competition, and that Netflix is not in the business of appeasing French theater owners. And that Cannes is.
The streaming giant’s Chief Content Officer and veritable public face Ted Sarandos touched down in France to support his company’s two titles — highly publicized, thanks to their star power and Netflix’s outlaw status this year — “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories.”
“The story of this festival, for whatever reason, has been those two films. And remember, those films were invited here solely on their merits. Thierry [Frémaux, Cannes Artistic Director] has an incredible track record of cultivating the greatest movies of the year from all over the world, and these two films, according to him, qualify,” Sarandos said, in an interview with the U.K.’s Telegraph.
French theater owners balked at the idea of Netflix being invited to the nexus of European cinema with no firm plans to release their titles theatrically in the country. Netflix said they were considering it, but before a deal was struck, the festival appeased the establishment and announced it would mandate a European theatrical run from all festival titles.
“If you are inventing qualifications for how a film has to appear on a commercial basis, that seems very out of step with the spirit of the festival, and the independence of the festival,” Sarandos said.
Bong Joon Ho’s “Okja” premiered to great reviews. Noah Baumbach’s “Meyerowtiz Stories” premieres Sunday.
“The Square” Lingers
Not unlike last year’s sensation and eventual awards contender “Toni Erdmann,,” Ruben Ostlund’s ambitious and gratifying art-world film “The Square” is long (almost two and a half hours) but long-lingering after critics left the screening Friday night.
“Aren’t we humans a sorry lot?” is the question the film inspires, according to TheWrap’s Pond.
A museum curator chases millennial viewers and shirking screens in this ensemble piece that features faces like Dominic West and Elisabeth Moss. It’s the film’s provocative questions about humanity and the social contract that has everyone buzzing, though:
The Square: an hour of anxious art-world LOLs, then the teeth-grinding really begins. Gleaming, sly, thrillingly pushes its luck. #Cannes70
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) May 19, 2017
Not 100% on how it adds up, but THE SQUARE is something else: a scathingly funny comedy about intervention & social responsibility #Cannes17
— AADowd (@AADowd) May 19, 2017
— Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) May 19, 2017
Force Majeure was about your reaction in an emergency, The Square is about your reaction when someone asks for help #Cannes2017
— Alicia Malone (@aliciamalone) May 19, 2017
man, can you believe there’s already a sequel to THE CIRCLE? (this is a joke about THE SQUARE)
— Emma Stefansky (@stefabsky) May 19, 2017
The Square: this year's Toni Erdmann, as in, looong film that flies by. On 3,5 hrs sleep, I didn't blink. This is HIGH compliment. #Cannes70
— Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly) May 19, 2017
Director's Statement on The Square, for a better idea of what Ruben Östlund is going for this time. Just wait till you see it. pic.twitter.com/yquvNZpNc7
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) May 19, 2017