Cannes Report Day 10: Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ Makes a Star Out of Austin Butler

Plus, “One Fine Morning” from Mia Hansen-Løve and star Léa Seydoux wins a Directors’ Fortnight prize

Austin Butler Elvis Cannes
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Baz Luhrmann has left the building. More than Tom Cruise, Kristen Stewart or Tilda Swinton, the biggest star to rock Cannes this year may have been “Elvis” and its breakout lead actor Austin Butler.

“Elvis” was greeted by the Cannes audience with a 12-minute standing ovation following its premiere, and the festivities surrounding it were astonishing. That included a performance from Italian Eurovision winners Måneskin and some drones that performed some gorgeous acrobatic light shows in the night sky.

Butler too could be seen crying thanks to the film’s reception, and the buzz around him has been special, with many talking early Oscar love and that he’s an instant star. “I basically put the rest of my life on pause for two years, and I just absorbed everything I possibly could, and I went down the rabbit hole of obsession,” Butler said during Thursday’s press conference. “That’s the tricky thing, you see Elvis as this icon or as the wallpaper of society, and trying to strip all that away and find the human nature that was deeper than all of that, that’s what was fascinating to me.”

But did people actually “like” “Elvis”? Well, that depends on what you think of the “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby” director Luhrmann, whose glitzy and stylized films have always been of the love-him/hate-him variety. The new film combines Elvis Presley’s music with needle drop mixes of Backstreet Boys, Doja Cat and Britney Spears, and it has earned comparisons to films like the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and not always as a compliment.

“Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ is… *exactly* what you expect Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ to be. Overcranked, glittery, silly, fun, ridiculous…sometimes all of those within the same five seconds! The only variables are lead actor Austin Butler (better than expected) and Tom Hanks (much worse!),” the New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan wrote in a tweet.

“The film is dazzling, bold and moving. Austin Butler absolutely nails it- all the shades: voice, moves, emotion. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it,” Guillermo del Toro chimed in about the film.

Butler had such wattage that you may have forgotten Tom Hanks made his own triumphant return to Cannes with the film, and in the press conference on Thursday he explained learning about the brilliant “imp” of a man that was his character Colonel Tom Parker and in speaking with Luhrmann said he was convinced once he realized the man’s greed and depth.

“I said I’m your man, now show me a picture of what the Colonel looks like, and he showed me and I thought ‘Oh my god, what have I done,” Hanks said.

“Elvis” opens in theaters from Warner Bros. on June 24.

Mia Hansen-Løve’s “One Fine Morning” Wins Director’s Fortnight Prize

“One Fine Morning,” the latest film from director Mia Hansen-Løve and starring Léa Seydoux, has won Best European Film from the Director’s Fortnight competition, Europa Cinemas announced Thursday.

“Mia Hansen-Løve’s ‘One Fine Morning’ is a beautifully made film with very relatable and well-drawn characters. Her observation of human life is astutely drawn – the tussle for a single mother between her child, her sick father and her lover,” a Europa Cinemas Network jury said. “It added: “We all appreciated her subtle cinematic style and her magnificent editing. Léa Seydoux is as superb as ever. The Europa Cinemas Label will help maximise the film’s presence on screens around Europe at a time when competition for space has never been higher.”

Sony Pictures Classics recently acquired “One Fine Morning” domestically, and the film follows Sandra (Seydoux), a young mother who raises her daughter alone, pays regular visits to her sick father. While she and her family fight tooth and nail to get him the care he requires, Sandra reconnects with Clément, a friend she hasn’t seen in a while. Although he is in a relationship, the two begin a passionate affair.

Close Lukas Dhont cannes

A24 Acquires Lukas Dhont’s “Close” Ahead of Premiere

A24 has made another acquisition out of Cannes, acquiring the North American rights to “Close,” the next film from Lukas Dhont, which is set to debut tonight in the main competition at Cannes.

Dhont is the director of 2018’s “Girl,” which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes, and the film stars Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele, and Émilie Dequenne, Léa Drucker, Kevin Janssens, Marc Weiss, Igor Van Dessel, and Léon Bataille.

“Close” is described as a film about friendship and responsibility and follows two 13-year-old boys, Léo and Rémi, whose friendship suddenly gets disrupted. Struggling to understand what has happened, Léo approaches Sophie, Rémi’s mother. Dhont also wrote the screenplay with Angelo Tijssens.

A24 also picked up the Paul Mescal drama “Aftersun” from director Charlotte Wells earlier this week.

Reviews From Day 10

Elvis,” dir. Baz Luhrman (Out of Competition) – by Steve Pond

Can we just admit that if Baz Luhrmann were Elvis, he’d be the Vegas Elvis? Not the lean and feral Early Elvis, or the bored Movie Elvis or the sluggish and bloated Late Elvis. He’d be that early-Vegas Elvis, spangled and prone to excess but also capable of being damned exciting. “If I Can Dream,” “Burning Love” and the epochal “Suspicious Minds” — he’d be that Elvis. 

The problem with Luhrmann, though, is one that at times rubs off on Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” which premiered on Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival: The Australian director also has a lot of Colonel Tom Parker in him. Parker was a showman, to be sure, a former carny who managed Elvis and steered him on a path where profit always took precedence over artistry. And as Col. Parker (who was appropriately, neither a colonel nor born with the name Parker) says many times during “Elvis,” “All showmen are snowmen.” 

The Colonel was talking about himself, and to a lesser degree Elvis, but Luhrmann knows the snowshoe fits and he wears it proudly. The film is part spirited homage to a titanic force in American music, delivered with the brio and extravagance of Lurhmann riffs like “Moulin Rouge!” and “Romeo + Juliet”; part sad cautionary tale of a quick rise and a long, slow decline; and part showcase for Austin Butler, who takes an impossible role and does a terrific job even though he, like everyone else on the planet, doesn’t really look like Elvis. But at other times the film is also a late-Elvis-sized snow job that gleefully distorts an icon’s life and career.

Stars at Noon,” dir. Claire Denis (Main Competition) – by Ben Croll

Not a word of French is spoken in Claire Denis’ languid thriller “Stars at Noon,” but the voice that rings out is crystal clear. On paper (and the film is adapted from Denis Johnson’s 1984 book), the project seems cut from similar cloth to a paranoid New Hollywood potboiler, draping games of cat and mouse with a geopolitical sash.

On screen, the film would just as soon do away with dress altogether, replacing the thrill of the chase with thrills of the flesh — and with a number of other illicit activities as well. The walls are closing in around our beleaguered leads, so they might as well pour a drink, light up a smoke, and enjoy that even closer proximity.

Marking her return to the Cannes competition for the first time in more than 30 years, Denis brings a Central America–set, English-language title with Gallic DNA. It follows Trish (Margaret Qualley, whose silent-film star eyes always keep our attention even her dialogue gets wonky), a disaffected twenty-something who would tell you she’s a journalist, though another character describes her as a  “North American prostitute drifter who drinks like an Apache.”