CANNES, France — On Wednesday, the 75th Cannes Film Festival rolled out the red carpet for Tom Cruise while French fighter jets roared overhead streaming smoke trails of red, white and blue. Once again, the festival and Hollywood had joined forces to declare their shared values — liberté, égalité, fraternité, publicité! — while delivering a militaristic spectacle that instantly became worldwide news.
Cruise was at the festival for a special screening of “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to his 1986 blockbuster breakthrough. Cruise aside, the first few days of the festival (it ends May 28) have been relatively quiet, despite the moans of attendees struggling to navigate the online ticketing system. Although ticketing has improved, at least for journalists, I have heard that several programmers took to watching links in their rentals here. That may sound funny, but it’s a drag because being with other people, masked or not, is crucial to Cannes, where movies are not just screened and argued over, but also bought and sold. And, as the pandemic has underscored, being with other people can be really nice.
The festival’s relatively low-key vibe is also partly a function of the movies that have thus far screened. Other attendees have been more favorably disposed than I am to Michel Hazanavicius’s zombie comedy “Final Cut,” which opened the festival on Tuesday and confirms that some things, including humor, can’t be translated. The movie was easily overshadowed on its big night by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who addressed the audience by satellite.
In Cannes or in Hollywood, politics are always part of the movie mix, whether it’s a feature-length ode to the military industrial complex like “Top Gun: Maverick” or a critique of Russian mythology like “Tchaikovsky’s Wife.” Directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, “Wife” tells the story of the marriage between the composer, Pyotr (Odin Biron), and the younger Antonina Miliukova (a superb Alyona Mikhailova), the title character. Profoundly ill-suited for each other, the two soon spiral into a hellish coexistence before going their mutually unhappy ways. “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” is easier to admire than it is to love. The movie’s relentless grimness may be brutally true, but it also doesn’t leave the viewer much breathing room.
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch, “The Eight Mountains” centers on a friendship between two boys — one from the city, the other from the country — that begins in their bucolic childhood. As they grow up, Pietro (Luca Marinelli) and Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) go their separate ways, reunite, fail, succeed and stumble again.
In “Scarlet,” the director Pietro Marcello bridges time through the story of a World War I veteran and his daughter. The dead still litter the fields when Raphaël (Raphaël Thiéry, an astonishment) hobbles back home, returning to a small village with few friendly faces. His wife is dead and his baby girl, Juliette, is being cared for by a local woman, Adeline (the marvelous Noémie Lvovsky), who lives in a small enclave outside the village.