Every year, the already posh beaches of the sleepy city of Cannes, France, are washed over by a wave of glitz, glamour, and film. The Cannes Film Festival, now in its 66th year, hosts the world’s greatest filmmakers, critics, and opportunistic businessmen; movies are screened, debates are held, and champagne is guzzled by the gallon.
Here’s a cheat sheet to the festival, for when you get to talking with that film snob at your Memorial Day barbecue.
2. Ryan Gosling’s film takes a beating.
No one can accuse Ryan Gosling of resting on the laurels of his good looks or fame; after breaking out by playing a Jewish skinhead in 2001’s The Believer, he’s pursued a career of playing eclectic, often difficult roles, shirking superheroes in spandex for the gritty, semi-stylized realism of flicks like Drive.
Only God Forgives, his reunion with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, had been one of the most highly anticipated film at Cannes. Gosling had to miss the premiere because he’s in Michigan directing his first film, and he’s probably glad he stayed back in the States, because audiences and critics in France were less than forgiving.
The movie, a hyper-violent bloodbath in which Gosling plays a criminal and drug dealer in Bangkok, was slammed by most prominent outlets. Variety called it an “exercise in supreme style and minimal substance,” which, aside from a rare positive mention from The Guardian, was just about the nicest thing said about the movie — including in the theater, where many in attendance booed.
4. Soderbergh’s flick about Liberace sparkles.
All the hoopla that surrounded the fact that Side Effects was to be Steven Soderbergh’s last film was a bit silly, first because it’s hard to believe a multiple Oscar winner would retire in his prime, and second, because he had another movie coming out just months later.
Behind the Candelabra, the story of the strange father-son-lover relationship between Liberace and the much younger Scott Thorson, debuted at Cannes to rave reviews and predictions of an Emmy sweep. Yep, the movie is first premiering in the U.S. on HBO (on Sunday night!), having been picked up by the cable network after no studio wanted to put in the extra few million dollars needed to produce a biopic starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (some speculated that it was “too gay” for mainstream America, which is terrible). It’ll play in theaters internationally, and to great anticipation.
The movie has been showered with love from critics, including Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Glieberman, who called it “artfully made and creepily moving love story” and a “disarmingly sincere tribute to Liberace’s high-camp theatrical genius.”
5. A Psy impostor fooled everyone.
On the bright side, Psy is now famous enough to have beautiful movie stars want to take pictures with him. On the flip side, he’s not quite recognizable enough for said movie stars to know they’re actually taking a photo with an impersonator.
Reports were going around that the “Gangnam Style” singer and human meme was making the rounds at the fanciest of Cannes parties, and at one point, Bond Girl Naomi Harris tweeted a photo with a man who she thought was Psy.
Soon after, the real Psy tweeted, “seems like there’s another ME at cannes…say Hi to him,” and noted that he is currently in Singapore.
Harris, at least, had some fun with it, responding, “It looks as if we’ve been fooled, that wasn’t the real @psy_oppa! Could anyone else tell from the picture? Or am I just going crazy!? Haha!”
James Bond may be worried about his top assistant.
6. Oscar Isaac is about to blow up.
While the star of Drive didn’t fare so well, one of his co-stars finally had that breakthrough moment. Oscar Isaac, who has also put in turns in the latest Bourne movie, W.E., and Revenge for Jolly!, finally has a starring vehicle of his own.
It’s not a superhero film like so many other star turners, but a dramedy/musical from the Coen Bros., which is like a baseball player getting pitched a big, sloppy, hanging curveball with the bases loaded. Isaac is said to have knocked the part, as a struggling folk singer in 1960s Greenwich Village, out of the park. He plays guitar and sings his own songs too, and has called it the role he was born to play.
7. Robert Redford became a star again.
So, here’s some irony: At a Cannes that was opened by the new Great Gatsby, the last man to play the enigmatic millionaire on screen shot back to critical acclaim.
Robert Redford, of course, never really stopped being a star — he just directed and starred in the political thriller The Company You Keep, and he runs a little festival called Sundance — but it’s been a while since he starred in a great movie. Now he’s getting major acclaim for his role in director JC Chandor’s film All Is Lost, a sort of Old Man and the Sea story that features Redford as the lone survivor of a wrecked ship, bobbing helplessly in stormy waters.
There is already Oscar buzz for Redford, who has won only one statue from the Academy — and that was for directing a movie over 30 years ago.
8. Jessica Chastain continues to be glamorous.
There is a lot of wealth and opulence on display at this most classy of European affairs, with massive red carpets drawing the biggest stars decked out in lavish gowns and tuxedos. After an awards-season run that saw her wow onlookers and score her first Golden Globe for an incredible turn in Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain was back in the public eye in a jewel-encrusted violet dress.
9. Thieves swipe millions.
In what will undoubtedly become the inspiration for a film within the next few years, burglars made out with over $1 million worth of top-end diamonds and jewelry. The goods were stashed in the safe of a Novotel hotel room, and the good news is that they were owned by Chopard, not any movie stars, so they’re probably insured and everyone (aside from the insurance company) is happy.
Then, several days ago, all the luggage of the ultra-important head of the China Film Group — the nation of China’s official film arm — was swiped from the apartment he had rented.
He was not pleased, tweeting, “This film festival is not worth mentioning!”