Cannes Report Day 9: Guillermo Del Toro Tells Cannes to Not Be Shy About Streamers: ‘Break the Machine From the Inside’

Plus, Ali Abbasi’s “Holy Spider” acquired by Utopia, and Mads Mikkelsen will reunite with “A Royal Affair” director

Guillermo Del Toro Cannes Day 2 Symposium
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 25: Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux and Guillermo del Toro attend the press conference for "Cannes 75 – Les Cineastes 2" during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

Guillermo del Toro on Tuesday had some bleak words about the state of the movies in the first part of a Cannes symposium about the future of cinema. But in part two of that conversation, the “Nightmare Alley” filmmaker had a much more optimistic message and explained why today’s directors can’t be afraid of how the movies are changing.

Speaking on a panel with other directors including Rebecca Zlotowski, Abderrahmane Sissako, Abel Ferrara, Lynne Ramsay, Laurent Cantet, Pawel Pawlikowski, Joachim Lafosse and even a surprise appearance from Nicolas Winding Refn, del Toro explained that as filmmakers, we “can’t be shy about the platforms,” referring to the algorithms and new methods that are dictating the way the movies are being made today. “We want to break the machine from the inside, show us what we can do with them. We are troublemakers, rebels, we want to destroy the machine,” he said via the Cannes Twitter feed recapping the panel.

But he went further and explained that even before the Netflix’s of the world trotted out data to decide how to make movies, there were always people giving notes and dictating the formula they wanted to see in films, and there was nothing different or “so great about having films produced by the f—ing Weinsteins.”

In fact, del Toro even shared a story about a studio note he received making “Pan’s Labyrinth” in which they asked if the main character actually needed to die in the end. But it was that conflict and pushback that made him smarter as a director. “Any time you’re missing voices, you’re missing the symphony being complete. Art is not possible without disobedience, and art is not possible without assholes. You have to measure your sanity against the assholes,” he said. “The second worst thing that can happen to you is total success or total freedom. Adversity is the language of art.”

Elsewhere in the panel, Nicolas Winding Refn discussed how video games are the exciting new medium with a rebel spirit and that cinema could be that again, while Abel Ferrara said he even has no qualms about people seeing a movie on a phone, but that “a film in an empty theater is not a film.”

“If I’m quiet at home watching a movie, I don’t want the movie police showing up and ordering me to watch it on the big screen,” Ferrara said.

But the panel agreed that the future of cinema discussion is one that audiences and artists will be having for decades to come, and cinema will endure no matter how it changes.

In this moment what we need to accept, this is by far not the death of cinema, this is transformation,” del Toro said. “Just like the world continues no matter how deep your grief gets, cinema will continue no matter how dire you think it is. We are genetically engineered to tell stories to breathe.”

Utopia Acquires Ali Abbasi Thriller ‘Holy Spider’

“Holy Spider,” Ali Abbasi’s Iranian thriller that has earned rave reviews after premiering at Cannes in the main competition on Sunday, has had its North American rights acquired by Utopia, the U.S. distributor and sales company owned by Robert Schwartzman and Cole Harper.

The film stars actors Mehdi Bajestani and Zar Amir Ebrahimi. And Abbasi, who is an Iranian-Swedish director known for the troll movie and Un Certain Regard winner “Border,” has described “Holy Spider” as a “Persian Noir.” The movie shocked Cannes audiences for its frank discussions about gender in Iran but also its graphic violence and male and female nudity. At the same time, it has emerged as an early frontrunner for the Palme d’Or.

In “Holy Spider,” female journalist Rahimi (Ebrahimi) travels to the Iranian holy city of Mashhad to investigate a serial killer (Bajestani) who believes he is doing the work of God, cleansing the streets of sinners by murdering sex workers. As the body count mounts, and Rahimi draws closer to exposing his crimes, the opportunity for justice grows harder to attain as the ‘Spider Killer’ is embraced by many as a hero.

Read more here.

Mads Mikkelsen to Reunite With ‘A Royal Affair’ Director on Epic Period Drama ‘King’s Land’

Mads Mikkelsen will star in the epic period drama “King’s Land,” reuniting with the director of “A Royal Affair” Nikolaj Arcel — in that filmmaker’s first film since “A Royal Affair” in 2012.

“King’s Land” is co-written by Arcel and Danish screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen (“Riders of Justice”) and is based on the Danish bestseller “The Captain and Ann Barbara” from 2020. The drama will follow the conquest of the Danish heath and a proud and uncompromising man and the woman who becomes his ally in the fight against evil, death and perdition.

Shooting is expected to begin in September in Denmark, Germany and the Czech Republic.

The film comes from producer Zentropa, and TrustNordick has boarded international sales rights on the new project.

Read more here.

Tori and Lokita
Festival de Cannes

Reviews from Day 9

“Tori and Lokita,” dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Main Competition) – by Steve Pond

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the Belgian brothers who have directed a series of films notable for quiet naturalism, are a prime example of how at the Cannes Film Festival, familiarity breeds not contempt but contentment.

Familiarity may be working against the Dardennes at this point. Their style has evolved but not changed dramatically over the years, so it may be harder for a festival jury (and viewers) to respond the way they would if they hadn’t been become so accustomed to seeing naturalistic Dardenne stories about ordinary people under stress, shot using natural light and handheld cameras.

“Tori and Lokita,” which premiered in Cannes on Tuesday, follows a pair of young immigrants who’ve come from Africa to Berlin combines the Dardennes’ quiet empathy with some real urgency. In 88 succinct and effective minutes, it sketches a heartbreaking portrait of young refugees clinging to each other in a Europe that is far from welcoming.

Read more from Steve Pond’s review here.

“Nostalgia,” dir. Mario Martone (Main Competition) – by Ben Croll

Telling a story about mothers and sons, about gangsters and priests, and about a peculiar kind of longing for the past in a place where little has changed for hundreds of years, “Nostalgia” is a nigh perfect candidate to wave il Tricolore.

Taking a thin amount of plot and stretching it as far and wide as it can go, the film itself is far from perfect, but it does benefit from “The Traitor” star Pierfrancesco Favino’s terrific lead performance as a man who learns the hard way that there’s no going home again.

After 40 years abroad, Felice (Favino, of course) returns to his native Naples a stranger in a familiar land. Not much has changed from the streets of his youth except for Felice himself, who now speaks an accent forged from four decades in Cairo and Beirut and peppered with touches of French and Arabic.

The reason for his exile will reveal itself over time – more than an hour in, to be exact – so in the opening reels we can simply enjoy the pleasant enough walking through streets and alleys of Naples’ Sanità neighborhood, or the touching sight of Felice reuniting with his mamma. Like her son, who has grown into a different person, mamma Teresa (played by Aurora Quattrocchi) has passed an invisible and irreversible threshold; only in this case, it is of physical decline. While the film’s measured pace acts as a kind of gift to the characters, giving them just a bit more time together, eventually narrative imperatives take over.

Read more from Ben Croll’s review here.