Cannes Report Day 4: Emotions Run High at ‘Armageddon Time’ Premiere; Lee Jung-jae on Directing

Plus, Rithy Panh explains his exit from a TikTok short film jury

"Armageddon Time" Photocall - The 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival
L-R: Jeremy Strong, Jaylin Webb, Director James Gray, Michael Banks Repeta, and Anne Hathaway (Getty Images)

The Cannes Film Festival keeps rolling along with some surprises and a dash of controversy, but Thursday night saw the premiere of the first major American film in the main competition: James Gray’s “Armageddon Time,” a movie that on its face was the subject of some early Oscar buzz.

Gray basked in an emotional seven-minute standing ovation following the premiere of the film Thursday night, proudly telling the Cannes crowd that the film they just saw is “my story,” a nostalgic look at the director’s childhood growing up as a bratty kid with a Jewish mother and grandfather in 1980s New York, the latter played by Anthony Hopkins.

“We finished the film last Saturday and brought it here. I’m grateful to each and every one of you,” he said.

“Armageddon Time” star Anne Hathaway likewise got emotional discussing the film in the press conference on Friday morning, talking about her mother-in-law who recently passed away. “Her legacy influences my life in profound ways that I am truly, truly grateful for, and the hand of a Jewish mother will guide the rest of my life,” Hathaway said.

Gray’s tone at the press conference turned a bit more serious as he discussed the state of cinema and Hollywood and its reliance on turning everything into a franchise. “The whole point should be to inspire creativity. Instead, what we say is, ‘That’s good franchise.’ We used to think of franchises as McDonald’s and Burger King. Now it’s cinema. And it’s up to artists to talk about what’s wrong, because it’s not coming from anywhere else, I can tell you.”

You can find more from the presser here, and you can also read a snippet of Steve Pond’s review of “Armageddon Time” below.

"Hunt" Red Carpet Lee Jung-jae
CAMan-sik Jeong, Lee Jung-jae and Jung Woo-sung attend the screening of “Hunt” (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)

Lee Jung-jae Goes on a ‘Hunt’ as a Director and International Star

Though American and Western audiences may just know Lee Jung-jae as the star of “Squid Game,” he’s one of Korea’s most accomplished and successful actors with a career spanning decades. And Cannes gave him the opportunity to introduce yet another side of his star power, his directorial debut “Hunt,” a fictional, Korean political thriller that premiered out of competition in a midnight screening on Thursday.

Lee told the Associated Press that he’d be interested in working in Hollywood, but the demand for Korean-language properties right now globally is still too great to limit himself.

“Working in Hollywood would definitely be a good experience for me,” Lee said in an interview. “If there was a good fit for me, a good character, I’d definitely like to join. But right now, I feel like global audiences are wanting more Korean content and Korea-made TV shows and films. So I would work in Korea as well very diligently. I might seem a little greedy, but if there was a role for me in Hollywood, I’d definitely like to do that, too.”

Lee acknowledged that American audiences might only know him from “Squid Game,” but after becoming the first Asian actor to win the SAG Award in the TV categories for a male performer, he’s hoping that changes, saying that the whole experience still “seems like a dream to me.”

Rithy Panh Explains His Resignation From TikTok Short Film Competition Jury

Rithy Panh, the Cambodian director of “The Missing Picture” and a Cannes darling, earlier this wee resigned from his role as the head of the jury for a short film competition sponsored by TikTok, the inaugural competition hosted by the social media app. At the time he cited “a persistent disagreement over the independence and sovereignty of the jury” as to why he resigned.

But on Friday in an interview with a French publication L’Obs (via Deadline), Panh explained he had “no choice but to resign my role” after TikTok consistently tried to offer suggestions as to which film the jury should select as the winner, with THR initially reporting that TikTok replaced some of the winners the jury selected and informed Panh that the jury’s selected winner violated the terms of the competition.

“It is not a question of denigrating the creations, which were all interesting, only to choose between the big professional team with big means, 20 extras and a director of photography, and the little guy who filmed his friends with great poetry and a committed message, I think we should reward the second film,” he told the French publication. “A competition with a jury must rhyme with total independence in the choices. I regret that was not the case.”

THR reported further on Friday that TikTok apologized for interfering with the independence of the jury and agreed to let his jury select whichever film they liked as the winner.

“TikTok is an entertainment platform that values and supports creative and authentic expression… For this competition, we are pleased to have a jury of five members from diverse backgrounds,” TikTok told THR in a statement. “As with any creative competition where the selection of a winner is open to subjective interpretation, there may be differences of artistic opinion from the independent panel of judges. We are looking forward to the award ceremony we’re organizing this afternoon in Cannes to celebrate the amazing talents that have won this competition.”

Paul Greengrass Benedict Cumberbatch
Getty Images

Paul Greengrass Project ‘The Hood’ With Benedict Cumberbatch Hits the Cannes Market

Paul Greengrass will direct Benedict Cumberbatch in a period drama and action film called “The Hood” in a project that’s being floated to buyers at the Cannes Market, an individual close to the project told TheWrap.

While specific plot details are being kept under wraps, the film is said to follow a revolt of peasant farmers in England, the most famous of which took place in the 14th Century following the spread of the Black Death and conflict over taxation generated as a result of the French Hundred Year’s War.

Greengrass also wrote the script. CAA Media Finance and FilmNation are handling sales on the film at the Marché du Film, where it will be presented to buyers starting today.

Tyler Thompson of Cross Creek is financing, and Thompson will also produce “The Hood” along with Greggory Goodman.

Reviews From Day 4

Armageddon Time,” dir. James Gray (Main Competition)

Kenneth Branagh’s childhood was transformed by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Mike Mills had very eccentric parents and Cameron Crowe was a teenage rock critic — and we know these things because all three directors have made films that drew upon their own childhoods. And now it’s James Gray’s turn to offer his own look back with “Armageddon Time,” which premiered to a rousing ovation in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday.

Gray is hard on himself in “Armageddon Time”; Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), the film’s stand-in for the director as a sixth grader, is never cute, unless you want to dote on the angelic curls and ignore the purposefully stubborn personality. And he’s hard on the society in which Paul finds himself, where privilege is taken for granted by those who have the right class and color to get it. The film makes that point even before we see Fred Trump showing up as a benefactor for Paul’s new private school, or U.S. attorney and former graduate Marianne Trump (a one-scene cameo from Jessica Chastain) talking to the kids about how they’ll have to work hard for everything they get.

It’s an acerbic, tough look back, which makes it a rarity in a genre that often (and sometimes effectively) dons rose-colored glasses.

Read more from Steve Pond’s review here.

“EO” (Festival de Cannes)

EO,” dir. Jerzy Skolimowski (Main Competition)

Just two days into this year’s Cannes Film Festival, audiences have already confronted puking zombies, freak-out orgies and a surprise visit from the Trumps. But nothing could quite prepare festival goers for the outlandish offer of Jerzy Skolimowski’s “EO,” which premiered in competition late Thursday night. 

Following a donkey separated from a loving owner and cast into an unforgiving world, the film offers a neon buffed glow-up to Robert Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar” and plays out more or less like a Nicholas Winding Refn influenced horror flick – which makes the fact that Skolimowski is an 84-years-young Polish man, the oldest director at Cannes, all the more surprising. 

A through-and-through exercice de style as the French would put it, “EO” has plenty on its mind and nothing much to say, idling through a series of vignettes than more often not end with a punch-line of a forbidden kiss or a sudden act of violence, capturing them all with a flashy and urgent style of a music video or Super Bowl car commercial. 

Read more from Ben Croll’s review here.

One Fine Morning,” dir. Mia Hansen-Løve (Director’s Fortnight)

Throughout her career, Mia Hansen-Løve has returned to a familiar milieu — the daily lives of women, drawing out a poignant beauty and humanist sense of drama in the quotidian rhythms of mothers as they go about their work, as well as their caretaking of children, parents and their own inner worlds.

In “One Fine Morning,” Hansen-Løve’s latest, the woman in question is Sandra, played by Léa Seydoux, hair cropped into a pixie cut, clad in the jeans, sweatshirt and backpack befitting a young widowed mother caring for her daughter, Linn (Camille Leban Martins), on her own in Paris. In addition to being a single mom, and her work as a translator, Sandra cares for her father, Georg (Pascal Greggory, “Non-Fiction”), a former philosophy professor who has been suffering from Benson’s syndrome, a neurodegenerative disease related to Alzheimer’s, which has affected his eyesight and cognitive abilities.

Read more from Katie Walsh’s review here.

Hunt,” dir. Lee Jung-jae (Out of Competition)

The opening credits of “Hunt,” a South Korean thriller that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival at midnight on Thursday, offer an unusual juxtaposition. The first card in Lee Jung-jae’s film points out that this is a fictional story, and any resemblance to real people, etc. But that’s immediately followed by several cards laying out the political history of South Korea in the 1970s and ’80s: How a military coup took over in 1979 after the assassination of the president, and how the leader installed by that coup eventually claimed the presidency and began a crackdown on the press and anyone who didn’t agree with him.

So what is “Hunt?” A fictional story, or the thinly-disguised tale of what happened after this new president, who is conspicuously unnamed throughout the film, came into power?

Actually, it’s a fictional story set among real events and dealing with some real people, including one who apparently still has enough clout to keep a movie that centers on his presidency from using his real name.

Read more from Steve Pond’s review here.

Corsage,” dir. Marie Kreutzer (Un Certain Regard) – by Nicholas Barber

Marie Kreutzer’s “Corsage” is a fanciful art-house study of a royal, valued for her beauty and style, who realises that she needs to escape from her unfaithful husband and her rigidly ritualised existence. It’s tempting, then, to call it “Spencer” for Grown-Ups.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, played by Vicky Krieps, may not have the mainstream appeal of Kristen Stewart’s Princess Diana, and there is no equivalent of “The Crown” to get audiences up to speed on 19th century Austro-Hungarian politics.

But the films have a lot in common, and “Corsage,” which premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, deserves at least as many plaudits. It’s certainly the more intelligent, haunting and waspishly funny of the two films.

Read more from Nicholas Barber’s review here.