Each spring, the French Riviera becomes a hotbed for celebrities, rising stars and movie-making deals at the Cannes Film Festival. Last week, the 65th edition got off to a resounding start with the world premiere of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Putting a retro twist on the classic Romeo and Juliet story, the film follows the romance of two prepubescent runaways and the local community of eccentric New Englanders who try to stop them. Ever the epitome of hipster-prep chic, Anderson's latest project features a gorgeous vintage-postcard aesthetic and dry wit to spare, along with solid performances by newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman as the star-crossed lovers.
Riding high on critical buzz since its debut on day two is French director Jacques Audiard's beautifully poignant drama Rust and Bone. Marion Cotillard stars as a marine-park whale trainer who suffers an accident that leads her to befriend a struggling single father and small-time boxer (Matthias Schoenaerts). Cotillard is superb as always, but some are already putting their money on Schoenaerts as this year's Jean Dujardin, of The Artist fame.
Australian director John Hillcoat makes a foray into the American South with Lawless, a gangster piece based on the real-life Bondurant brothers, who sold whiskey during the Prohibition era. Scripted by Nick Cave, the film achieves that tricky balance between high-adrenaline action sequences and character-driven story. Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke star as the three Bondurants, with standout supporting roles filled by Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska.
In The Hunt, a child's false accusation of sexual abuse leads to a decay of social and moral integrity in a small Danish community. Disturbingly and frustratingly realistic, director Thomas Vinterberg forces us to watch as everyone does the wrong thing while firmly believing themselves to be in the right—from the parents who believe their imaginative daughter without proof to her accused teacher, who remains unwilling to demonize his former friends who allowed the rumor to spread like a virus. While American audiences will probably recognize him from his villainous turn in Casino Royale, Mads Mikkelson delivers a delicate, nuanced performance as the ostracized kindergarten teacher that seems like an early contender for the Best Actor prize.
In the "Un Certain Regard" program, this year's Sundance sweetheart Beasts of the Southern Wild continued to charm audiences. First-time director Benh Zeitlin takes us on a mystical journey through the bayous of Louisiana, bringing the South to life in wonderfully rich audiovisual detail through the eyes of the 6-year-old protagonist, Hushpuppy (newcomer Quvenzhan– Wallis) in her quest to find her mother in light of her father's failing health. Part magical realism, part environmental disaster movie, Zeitlin's debut is not one to miss.
Like father, like son. Brandon Cronenberg's graphic debut feature, Antiviral, fuses sci-fi with body horror to depict a perversely dystopian society in which obsessive fans pay to receive injections of diseases gleaned from their favorite celebrities. (If it sounds far-fetched, just think about people who bid on everyday items on eBay simply because they've been touched or used by a famous person.) Although the actual scientific elements seem dubious, the film's message and provocative critique of the celebrity culture perpetuated by tabloids, fan sites, etc., ring loud and clear.