Cannes Report Day 5: Tilda Swinton Explains Why It’s ‘Dangerous’ to Hear ‘Only One Story’

Plus, European Film Academy president Agnieszka Holland criticizes the inclusion of a Russian filmmaker in the Official Selection

Three Thousand Years of Longing Cannes George Miller Tilda Swinton Idris Elba
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George Miller’s gonzo and fanciful “Three Thousand Years of Longing” premiered at Cannes on Friday night has quickly become one of the more talked about films out of the festival thus far. And Miller and his stars Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in a press conference Saturday encouraged the journalists in the room, as well as Hollywood at large, to continue telling unique, diverse stories.

Swinton in particular warned of the danger of only being exposed to one type of story. A question that began about the state of superhero movies led to an answer that evolved to have as much to do with Russian propaganda, as Swinton explained how “Three Thousand Years of Longing” — despite its fantastical premise — is so important.

“The thing that’s dangerous is when you have only one story. It’s when people can’t hear any other stories that things go down the tubes very fast. It’s keeping people’s ears open, keeping their ears curious, it’s just that one story that we have to get away from,” Swinton said. “It feels very apposite now to make this film about a variety of angles, even the debate about whether it involves supernatural forces or not. It’s that feeling of keeping our ears and hearts open that is really important.”

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” stars Swinton as a modern day professor who comes across an ancient Djinn (Elba) who offers to grant her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. But as Elba explains, he effectively made two movies in one with “Three Thousand Years,” one that is the more intimate love story of sorts between Swinton’s character and the Djinn wearing a bathrobe in her hotel room and the “heightened reality” of the Djinn’s wild, ancient past.

Miller also touted the importance of narrative, and he made a comparison to the pandemic in saying he was astonished how people during the Plague, well before any scientific knowledge of germs, told stories in order to keep themselves safe.

“Most stories we tell are allegorical. They’re open to interpretation, depending on who’s watching them. Fantasy stories lend themselves to dealing with much more complex things than, say, a documentary.”

Miller’s “Three Thousand Years of Longing” was honored with a 7-minute standing ovation in its Out of Competition premiere at Cannes, and he told the crowd it’s the first time he’s seen the film with an audience. And while some may have expected the film to be another “Mad Max: Fury Road,” he did give a small nugget of information about his follow-up to that film, the prequel Furiosa,” confirming that Tom Holkenborg, better known as Junkie XL, will return to score “Furiosa” just as he did “Fury Road.”

Agnieszka Holland at the 34th European Film Awards (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EFA)

European Film Academy President Criticizes Inclusion of Russian Filmmaker at Cannes

Agnieszka Holland, the Polish filmmaker and the president of the European Film Academy, criticized Cannes for opting to include a Russian filmmaker in its official selection amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Speaking on a panel at Cannes on Saturday, Holland said she would’ve preferred a total ban on Russian cultural products at the festival and also bristled that the same Russian filmmaker used his platform at the festival to defend a Russian oligarch.

“If it were up to me, I would not include Russian films in the official program of the festival – even if Kirill Serebrennikov is such a talented artist,” Holland said (via Variety). “Unfortunately my bad feelings were confirmed by his words. He used [the film’s festival press conference] to praise a Russian oligarch and compare the tragedy of Russian soldiers to Ukrainian defenders. I would not give him such a chance at this very moment.”

Serebrennikov is the director of “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” but also a Russian dissident who at one point had been placed under house arrest by the state for criticizing Vladimir Putin’s government. His film was the only Russian movie among the Official Selection, and Cannes had taken the step of banning Russian delegates from the festival and even journalists, as TheWrap had previously reported.

But Serebrennikov earlier in the week called on the international governments to lift the sanctions on Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch but also a film financier whom he defended as someone working with Ukraine and who was crucial to helping fund Russian arthouse movies, adding that they did not use state funds to complete “Tchaikovsky’s Wife.”

Jeremy Renner to Star as Journalist Who Uncovered Sackler Family Secrets

In yet another film to hit the Cannes market, 101 Studios announced early Saturday that Jeremy Renner would star in an untitled drama as journalist David Armstrong, the Pulitzer Prize winner who helped uncover the secrets of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma.

Over a four-year investigation, Armstrong discovered evidence that, in order to maximize their profits, members of the Sackler family knew of and supported Purdue’s concealment of the strength and addiction risks of the drug OxyContin. Since the release of OxyContin, more than 200,000 Americans have died from prescription painkiller related overdoses.   

The film will be written and directed by the husband and wife filmmaking duo Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly (“Beneath The Harvest Sky,” “Queenpins”).

Julie Yorn and Patrick Walmsley from Expanded Media/LBI Entertainment and 101 Studios’ David C. Glasser will produce. David Hutkin, Ron Burkle and Bob Yari will executive produce for 101 Studios. 

Reviews from Day 5

“Three Thousand Years of Longing,” dir. George Miller (Out of Competition) – by Ben Croll

Of all the delirious sights that fill the screen and dazzle the eyes in George Miller’s delightfully idiosyncratic “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” the most surprising is also, without a doubt, the most banal: It is the four-inch piece of cloth that actress Tilda Swinton drapes across her nose and mouth as her character rides a city bus. 

It would seem this fairy-tale landscape that Miller has dreamed up – a land of Djinns and magic wishes and men who morph into malicious little ghouls before scattering away as 10,000 scarabs – is also, apparently, a world shook by COVID. 

This tension between escapism and the dreariness we often hope to escape lies at the heart of the mad scientist Miller’s latest experiment, which premiered to waves of applause at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. Like “Mad Max: Fury Road” before it, “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is another kind of blockbuster that tries to lead by example, a big-budget fantasia that argues there are more imaginative and original ways for Hollywood to employ its tools. 

brother and sister
“Brother and Sister”/Festival de Cannes

Brother and Sister,” dir. Arnaud Desplechin (Main Competition) – by Nicholas Barber

The brother and sister in Arnaud Desplechin’s “Brother and Sister” can’t stand each other. The sister, played by Marion Cotillard, is Alice, a theatre superstar playing to packed houses in an adaptation of James Joyce’s “The Dead.” The brother, played by Melvil Poupaud, is Louis, an award-winning author and poet.

Alice resented it when his fame briefly overtook hers, but there is more to their mutual loathing than that. For mysterious, complicated reasons, they haven’t spoken in 20 years, and when they talk about each other to other people, Alice smiles a smile of pure venom, and Louis explodes in vicious rage. What are they to do, then, when Louis has to return to his hometown of Lille to visit his dying parents? Will he and Alice be forced to confront each other at long last?

It’s a juicy premise, but Desplechin and his co-writer, Julie Peyr, haven’t stopped there. Oh no. From a distance, their film is a typical French bourgeois drama about bookish middle-class siblings with stylish coats and decrepit parents: see also François Ozon’s “Everything Went Fine” (at Cannes last year) and Mia Hansen-Love’s “One Fine Morning” (at Cannes this year). But “Brother and Sister,” which also happens to be in Competition at Cannes, keeps piling on more and more ideas and digressions to the point that it will thrill some viewers, sicken others, and puzzle all of them.

Aftersun,” dir. Charlotte Wells (Critic’s Week) – by Carlos Aguilar

“Aftersun” evokes a radiant melancholia via the patiently watchful eye of cinematographer Gregory Oke, shockingly also in his first feature outing, which emphasizes attention to the non-verbal, specifically in how Sophie witnesses her father’s behavior. Visually fluid, the camera occasionally seems to glide between time creating the illusion of a seamless transition without cuts. Near the film’s poetic conclusion, a deftly executed sequence traverses sequences, stitching together several decades in one unhurried pan.

Fully experiential in its execution, this sun-drenched marvel employs hypnotic soundscapes that further sharpen our understanding of its metaphysical atmosphere. Far from making a traditional drama, Wells gives the concept of home movies, and the history hidden within them, added substance in what’s unspoken and preserved only in the mind of those present. What occurs uncaptured by the device’s lens is what both will remember most.