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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Cannes 2019 Video #2: The Dead Don't Die & Gender Disparity

Here is Chaz Ebert's second video dispatch from the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, followed by a transcript of the video ...


The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival is open under the warm glow of the mid-day sun! 

The festival began with a press conference introducing this year’s jury. I asked Jury President Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu about being the first Mexican Jury President in the history of Cannes, at a time in today’s society where walls are threatening to be built.

Later that night, the opening ceremony began with a star-studded red carpet featuring the cast of the opening night film - “The Dead Don’t Die” by director Jim Jarmusch.

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Jarmusch has long been a Cannes favorite, going back to his first appearance at the festival in 1984 when he won the prize for best first-time director, the Camera D’Or, for “Stranger Than Paradise.” Most recently, he’s been in Cannes with Patterson, starring Adam Driver and the documentary about Iggy Pop, “Gimmie Danger.”

His latest film in competition is a zombie comedy that features both Adam Driver and Iggy Pop, along with a number of other regular contributors to his films including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny. It’s part horror, part comedy that has some trouble balancing the two sides of that coin with neither part working to full effect. I have more of an affinity for vampire movies than zombie movies and enjoyed his previous film, “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Also, although a character played by Steve Buscemi wore a red cap that read “Make American White Again,” Jarmusch said this film had more of an environmental message rather than a political one. I was most intrigued by the character of the “foreign” lady undertaker played by Tilda Swinton, who, in a rare movie moment, was able to use her native Scottish accent. The film refers heavily to other monster movies of the past, especially the original zombie classic, “Night of the Living Dead” by George Romero - a director who was not shy about placing political messages in his zombie films.

Bill Murray regularly entertained the press corps with his usual comedic style, but also got serious at one point and talked about how he’s a better person when he’s working.

And Tilda Swinton got a little fired up when asked about the representation, or lack thereof, of women directors at this year’s festival.

The Festival is sensitive to criticism about gender representation and last year signed a pledge to be “50/50 by 2020.” Although Festival Director Thierry Fremaux mentioned in an interview this week that didn’t mean 50 percent of films made by women. Either way, I predict this is an issue that will not be going away anytime soon.

While the competition for the Palme d’Or is just beginning, a number of interesting films are being shown out of competition in special screenings including…

“Chicuarotes,” directed by Gael Garcia Bernal…

…“Ice on Fire,” an environmental documentary directed by Leila Conners and featuring Leonardo DiCaprio

Abel Ferrara’s “Tommaso” starring Willem Dafoe….

…and the always wonderful, always surprising Werner Herzog is back in Cannes with his latest picture, “Family Romance LLC,” shot on the streets of Tokyo.

That’s all for now, but we’ll have more Cannes coverage for you throughout the next two weeks including looks at “Les Miserables” by director Ladj Ly, Brazilian competition contender “Bacurau”, and the new Elton John biopic “Rocketman” from director Dexter Fletcher.

Until then, keep checking back at rogerebert.com/cannes for our video reports, as well as daily written reports from Barbara Scharres, Ben Kenigsberg, and more.

A bientôt!

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