Nepo babies and squatting in Asteroid City
It’s hard to avoid the Hawke-Thurman dynasty on this year’s Croisette. Ethan Hawke’s collaboration with Pedro Almodóvar, Strange Way of Life, still features on many of the resort’s billboards, a week after the short film’s ritzy premiere. Last week Uma Thurman brought her son, Levon Hawke, to Canne’s opening film for 2023, Jeanne du Barry, starring Johnny Depp. Tuesday was her daughter Maya Hawke’s time to shine, as part of the gargantuan cast of Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City.
“I’m going to have to text them when I get home,” Maya Hawke told us ahead of Asteroid City’s premiere. “We didn’t overlap. None of us saw each other.”
At 24, the breakout star of Stranger Things and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has modelled for All Saints and Calvin Klein and released two albums, Moss and Blush. She’s disarmingly frank about the way her family connections have helped shape her career.
“I mean, I don’t like that particular phrase, nepo baby,” she says. “But if you were to call me a child of nepotism, then I would be totally comfortable with it. There’s something about the hashtagginess of the term nepo baby that makes me itch. When we talk about our experiences in the film industry, we have different journeys. I feel like there’s a difference between what people imagine the advantages are and what they really are. The advantages are not having to worry about living hand to mouth and having information about how the industry works, how acting works, how to show up on set, how to be kind to people, and how to show respect for different departments. I feel deeply lucky to have that. This other idea, that you just appear on set, or that your parents are making calls for you, that’s not real.”
A superfan of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, Hawke was delighted to audition for Asteroid City and even more thrilled to get the job. The family atmosphere the Texan auteur fosters – communal cast dinners, no trailers, carefully curated outings and meals – was an added incentive. We can believe, in fact, that Hawke never wanted to leave. It’s a fabulous-looking set, in fairness.
“Wes walked out on his balcony over the set and said, ‘It’s your last day,’” Hawke says. “And I said, ‘I know. I’m devastated.’ And Wes says, ‘Well, do you have to go? What are you doing tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘Nothing.’ He said, ‘Okay. Give me a minute.’ And then he walked back from his balcony into his room and he wrote me into another scene. Just as an extra. So I was supposed to be there for three days of work. And I was there for three weeks. I think I wrapped twice because I kept just asking if I could stay on. If you ever see my face in the background, it’s because I really wanted to be there.”
Keep your eyes peeled for Hawke in those extra scenes when Asteroid City arrives in cinemas, on Friday, June 23rd.
Watch out for Weston Razooli
The international press is rightly aflutter, after early screenings, about The Zone of Interest, May December, About Dry Grasses and Fallen Leaves, all four of which are favourites for the Palme d’Or. Their French equivalents, meanwhile, are head over heels for Riddle of Fire, a madcap, 1980s-inspired adventure movie from the first-time director Weston Razooli. Writing in Liberation, Elisabeth Franck-Dumas describes the film as “joyful and dense”.
We caught up with the hip new auteur this week, just as Riddle of Fire made the cover of the Cannes issue of Cahiers du Cinema. (“Who, among first-time film-makers, will seem capable of perpetuating the very essence of cinema as a collective experience?” Cahiers asked. Riddle of Fire is its answer.) “I wanted it to feel like a kids’ movie made by kids,” Weston tells us. “That you could really enter into this kid world. Growing up in West Utah, like I did, you get to use your imagination a lot.”
If they had a prize for world-building at Cannes, Riddle of Fire would be a runaway favourite. It sees three plucky kids – Hazel (Charlie Stover), his younger brother, Jodie (Skyler Peters), and their friend Alice (Phoebe Ferro) – who, all unsupervised over the holidays because of a flu-stricken mom, undertake a series of quests. An opening sequence is a daring raid on a warehouse to obtain a new game console. Returning home, Mom has set a new password that she won’t reveal until the trio go to the bakery for blueberry pie. When the pie is sold out they track down the cook, who gives them the recipe. The recipe calls for a speckled egg, but the last box is purchased by a hillbilly. The kids follow him home only to discover he’s part of a strange clan with magical powers.
The French are not alone in their admiration. Word on the Croisette suggests that at least one major VIP has a ticket for the film’s final Cannes screening. Watch this space.
The first of Cannes’ sidebar competitions has a winner. The Malaysian coming-of-age film Tiger Stripes has won 2023 Critics’ Week, the competition where Aftersun debuted last year. Made by the first-time director Amanda Nell Eu, the movie – a kind of inverted Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – is about a lively 12-year-old who is mortified to become the first girl in class to get her period.
Next up is the Palm Dog. Who will win? The blue-eyed guide dog from Anatomy of a Fall? The deadpan terrier cross from Fallen Leaves? The Belgian shepherd from The Zone of Interest? Or the mongrel from Ken Loach’s The Old Oak? Loach has form. He previously received the Palm Dogmanitarian lifetime award for his repeated and humane use of canine stars. Place your bets now.
Cannes review: Kidnapped
Watching the contemplative Close Your Eyes, from Victor Erice, who is 82, the expansive Killers of the Flower Moon, from Martin Scorsese, who is 80, or the blood-splattering Kubi from Takeshi Kitano, who is 76, it’s fair to surmise that cinema isn’t necessarily a young person’s game.
Marco Bellocchcio the now 83-year-old director of Fists in the Pocket, returns to Cannes with Kidnapped, a furious account of historical abduction and anti-Semitism.
Set in the 1850s, when Pope Pius IX had unrivalled powers, Kidnapped concerns the case of Edgardo Mortara, a young Jewish boy who made international headlines when, at the age of six, he was removed from his family to be raised in the Vatican. The Church claimed a maid had secretly baptised the boy and was, therefore, a Catholic. Momolo Mortara (Fausto Russo Alesi) and his wife, Marianna (Barbara Ronchi), desperately attempt to get their child back. They are aided by international outrage, Napoleon III and the Rothschild family. The latter threatens to call in a seven-figure loan, a bill that would bankrupt the church. The terrifyingly fixated pope refuses to budge, however. “It is the world that is moving towards the precipice,” he insists.
Steven Spielberg has long hoped to adapt the saga for the big screen, but Bellocchio has beaten him to the punch. His film’s almost surreal flourishes – including the use of Shostakovich in the score, and eerily smooth cross-cuts between rival religious ceremonies – are in keeping with the outrageousness of the events it depicts. Not all of the innovations work: the brief use of animated contemporaneous newspaper cartoons feels off. The politics and courtroom drama, however, are deftly dramatised. You’ll bawl at least once and feel enraged for the rest of the film. The film’s depiction of Fr Pier Felletti (Fabrizio Gifuni), holy inquisitor, and Pius IX (Paolo Pierobon) will haunt you longer than any movie monster does.
Cannes review: Club Zero
A great many critics have been appalled by Club Zero, Jesicca Hausner’s daring blackly comic sci-fi satire of diets, cults and conformity. The film opens with a trigger warning about eating disorders, which is merited. The Austrian writer-director’s sixth feature concerns a dangerous teenage doomsday cult that forms around Ms Novak (a chilling Mia Wasikowska), a mysterious nutrition teacher at an exclusive English boarding school.
At the opening session of Novak’s “conscious eating” course, she is joined by Ragna (Florence Baker), a trampoline gymnast whose mother foolishly suggests she could stand to lose some weight; Elsa (Ksenia Devriendt), a bulimic girl whose wealthy mother also has an eating disorder; Fred (Luke Barker), a nonbinary, diabetic ballet dancer whose parents have moved abroad for a “project”; and Ben (Samuel D Anderson), a working-class boy who enrols in Novak’s class to gain credits toward a scholarship.
Conscious eating, the teacher explains, can address all of their concerns: weight loss, the environmental crisis and consumerism. Using mindfulness, breathing and self-control, the students slowly reduce their intake, policing resistance and failure among themselves. Their eventually horrified parents intervene, but too late and too politely.
Hausner sets her sights on the diet industry, charlatanism, neglectful and indulgent parents, body image and the loss of self. In common with her feature Lourdes, the film plays with ideas of belief with the precision and unexpectedness of a Shirley Jackson story. Following the chilly antidepressant critique Little Joe, this is Hausner’s second feature in the English language, which premiered at the Cannes film festival in 2019 and saw Emily Beecham awarded best actress. Wasikowska is similarly fiercely committed to the director’s commendably dangerous vision.
Cannes review: The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed
This droll sex comedy from the writer-director Joanna Arnow concerns Ann, a thirtysomething corporate-sector drone who addresses her generational malaise with a sideline in BDSM.
Arnow, who also stars, is naked for much of the film, but that’s a lot less racy than it sounds. Her clever screenplay is composed of awkward encounters and conversations. Visual punchlines amplify the visual absurdity of Ann’s sex life. One BDSM master makes her wear a pig outfit that looks like a failed child’s Halloween costume; another makes her run repeatedly to the wall, as if he were teaching a demented gym class.
Away from Ann’s awkward sexual life, she faces disappointed parents and failings at work. Arnow is simultaneously vulnerable, deadpan and detached in an unexpectedly sweet movie.