After the world premiere of his lavish 2-hour and 39-minute biopic Elvis Australian director, screenwriter and producer Baz Luhrmann recalled 1992, when his very first feature Strictly Ballroom premiered in Cannes. “My wife and I had made a small film thirty years ago and at the time there was only one cinema operator who wanted to watch it. And it ran away well before the end. “This is the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” he commented.
Luhrmann thought his film career was over, but a few weeks later he got a call from Pierre Rissient, one of the programmers at the Cannes festival. “They had seen my film and wanted to show it.” Emotional: “After the screening, someone from security came up to me. He put his hand on my shoulder and said:Monsieur, from this moment on your life will never be the same again.’ That was right. Thanks beaucoup, merci beaucoup†
After Strictly Ballroomwhich was included in the second competition Un certain regard in 1992, Luhrmann made the masterful Romeo+Juliet (1996), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the lead roles. He then made increasingly expensive and exuberant films, including Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsbywhich opened the Cannes Festival in 2001 and 2013.
Huge nose prosthesis
In Elviswhich was screened out of competition, Luhrmann sees the rise and fall of ‘The King of Rock and Roll’ in his own unique way through the eyes of Colonel Parker, his Dutch manager.
An insane montage, split screens, merging images and archival footage of historical events cannot hide the fact that Elvis is a rather one-dimensional narrative: Elvis (a great role by Austin Butler) is a musical genius, Parker (Tom Hanks with a huge nose prosthesis and a mal accent) has only one interest: its own interest.
At a press conference, Hanks said he doesn’t see Colonel Parker as a villain, but as a smart man who saw opportunities. “And if he could also earn a decent penny along the way, that was a nice bonus.”
Elvis’ widow Priscilla Presley, who had also come to Cannes, was happy with his film, according to Luhrmann. “She thanked us and said, ‘You have managed to portray my husband’s humanity. You show the man, not the icon. Now I can show his grandchild and later his great-grandchildren what kind of man their grandfather and great-grandfather were.”
Intimate and sophisticated
Flemish director Lukas Dhont, who has just turned 31, is at about the same point in his career as Luhrmann was thirty years ago. Of girlwhich was included in Un certain regard four years ago, he not only won the Camera d’Or, the prize for the best debut film in all sub-competitions, but also the Queer Palm for the best lhbtqi film and one of the prizes of the international film criticism.
Dhont’s second film close is competing for the Golden Palm this edition. It is at least as intimate, refined and boned, but very universal, about the friendship between two 13-year-old boys, Rémi and Léo (played incredibly well by Gustav De Waele and Eden Dambrine). After the big vacation, they go to the first grade of secondary school together. “Are you together?” wants to know a classmate. “We’re BFFs,” replies Rémi. “Almost brothers.” From there, their lives no longer keep pace.
Scared of people
close is a ‘very personal film’, Dhont said shortly before the world premiere, but still fairly relaxed, on the roof terrace of the Marriott Hotel. “I wasn’t one of the boys and I wasn’t one of the girls. That created a certain loneliness and a sense of shame because I couldn’t talk about it. There have been a lot of guys who wanted to get close, but I kept them at a distance, pushed them away or betrayed them because I wasn’t ready.”
After a sip of water: “That’s something I carry with me all my life; I didn’t make friends until I was 21. There was no other way, because I was not myself and I was afraid of people who would discover who I was. I’m trying to share more of myself now, but so far I think cinema is my most honest form of communication. Cinema is my way of expressing things that I have never been able to put into words.”
On Saturday evening, the nine-member jury led by French actor Vincent Lind will award the prizes. close has been one of the favorites since the very first market screening on the very first festival day. “Everyone who has a film in competition in Cannes wants to win the Palme d’Or. But if you go along with that, you can’t enjoy this special moment enough. And that has priority for me: to experience this moment as the unique it is.”
As he gets up to get ready for the premiere: “You can’t influence it either, huh. I was on the Un certain regard jury myself in 2019, so I know how it goes: different opinions and perspectives can suddenly coincide very differently than you expect. So I better not have any illusions.”