After Cannes’ opening night film “The Dead Don’t Die” got the festival off to a somewhat slow start with mixed reviews, Wednesday’s two debuts, “Les Misérables” and “Bacurau,” proved that this year’s lineup will have some life in it.
Ladj Ly’s “Les Misérables” isn’t based on Victor Hugo’s classic story, but it’s set in the same region in France and has the spirit of the original. Ly (picture above) originally directed an acclaimed short in 2017 of the same name that set the stage for this larger feature focused on police brutality and crime. The Guardian critic said Ly’s feature debut had a dose of “humor, cynicism, energy and savvy” and was worthy of some comparisons to previous Palme d’Or winner Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan.”
Another reviewer even predicted we might already have a prize winner on our hands. “‘Les Miserables,’ Cannes’s first prize-worthy film of this still young-edition,” Screen Comment said in a tweet. “Edge-of-your-seat realism that echoes the 2005 riots in France, this film is winning #Cannes19.”
The industry took notice as well, with Anne Thompson reporting that Ly was already signed by CAA and that his film has become a hot title on the market.
The same could be said about “Bacurau,” a Brazilian film from the directors of “Aquarius.” David Ehrlich at IndieWire called it a “delirious Western” that amazingly features Udo Kier “fighting ghosts with a sniper.” He added that it is part “Hostel” and part “Seven Samurai.”
John Carpenter takes a bow
Cult horror master John Carpenter, the director of “The Thing” and “Halloween,” among many others, graciously accepted the Golden Coach award from the French directors guild at the festival’s opening ceremony as part of the Director’s Fortnight. According to Reuters, Carpenter said he had been fascinated by cinema since he saw “The African Queen” at age three.
“It’s that transportation of an audience through the world of light and the shadows around it that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said.
Film Twitter also had fun spotting him with other horror luminaries like Dario Argento, and his presence felt even more significant in part because some critics felt “Bacurau” gave off vibes of early Carpenter classics.
A surprise from Todd Haynes
There’s always a handful of films each year that make their way to the festival marketplace under the radar, and this year’s biggest title was the documentary on the Velvet Underground from director Todd Haynes. THR reported that footage from the movie would screen Thursday at the Cinema Olympia and would be presented to buyers by Cinetic and Submarine.
First reported in January, the documentary would be Haynes’ first, but the musically inclined director behind “I’m Not There” and “Velvet Goldmine” is in good standing to handle the story of Lou Reed and one of the most influential rock bands of all time.
“Moonfall” has a Big Landing
Roland Emmerich’s $150 million sci-fi space epic “Moonfall” sold for a reported low-eight figures in both Germany and Switzerland, according to Deadline. An unnamed German indie conglomerate that handles distributors TMG and Universum purchased the film, which Emmerich is writing and directing, and Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios and CAA Media Finance are handling worldwide sales.
“Moonfall” tells the story of a ragtag team of astronauts who are forced to land on the moon’s surface when the moon is knocked out of Earth’s orbit, sending it hurtling on a collision course with Earth and threatening all of mankind.
Superheroes, “Gold” and “Best Sellers”
Among some of the other buzzy deals taking place on Wednesday and overnight, SP Media Group acquired a majority stake in Atlas Comics library, and Paramount has come aboard for a first look deal, according to Deadline. Atlas company is run by Jason Goodman, the grandson of Marvel Comics co-founder and publisher Martin Goodman. And a project is already set to be produced with an eye on a 2021 release.
“Avatar” star Sam Worthington has joined the Australian thriller “Gold,” which Anthony Hayes will co-write, direct and co-star in. Saboteur Media has come aboard the film to handle sales at Cannes, according to THR.
A Michael Caine movie has also hit the market at Cannes, this one called “Best Sellers,” which stars Caine as a washed-up, alcoholic of an author who goes out on a book tour with a young editor in order to help save a publishing house, according to THR. Anthony Grieco wrote the original screenplay, and Foresight Unlimited is handling international sales.
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” star Noomi Rapace is set to star in an action movie from Vicky Jewson called “Sylvia” in which she’ll star as a Mossad agent, according to Variety. WestEnd is handling sales at Cannes.
And finally, Epic Pictures acquired the U.S. rights to the horror comedy “Harpoon” from director Rob Grant, according to Variety. The film stars Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra and Christopher Gray in a black comedy about three friends who get stranded out at sea on a yacht.