Cannes 2024 (2)

Projections of the future, the past and the background of the present

Junk Cars After the Apocalypse

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" (Out of Competition) was eagerly awaited in Cannes. George Miller, author and director, has once again succeeded in winning over audiences and critics alike. The fifth instalment in the Mad Max series is designed as a prequel to Miller's 2015 film "Fury Road" and tells the story of the female heroine Furiosa's youth. Charlize Theron is replaced by Anya Taylor-Joy, who exercises female self-empowerment in the apocalyptic male world of the Australian outback. As a child, she is abducted by a cruel biker horde and falls captive to the 'Black Dementus' (played by white Chris Hemsworth), the sadistic "Ruler of Bikerdom", who has her mother crucified as she desperately tries to save her daughter.

Furiosa manages to escape. She ends up in the albino troop of the artificially ventilated Joe Immortan, who has access to the Citadel's water reservoirs.

In the post-apocalyptic world of the 'Mad Max' films, every day is a fight for survival. Water and gas are scarce resources that are fought over with extreme brutality. What is most needed is petrol to keep the junk cars and vintage bikes running. "Furiosa" is the ultimate action spectacle beyond Marvel heroes and star warriors. Honest craftsmanship made in Australia. With production costs of over 300 million Australian dollars, it is the most expensive Australian film to date. Here, men are still allowed to be men and unashamedly demonstrate their Neanderthal nature. But in the end, it is Furiosa who resolutely pursues her plan for revenge and is even prepared to chop off her own arm to do so.

Megalomanie or Rome Revisited

Francis Ford Coppola's late work "Megalopolis" was awaited with similar excitement at the Croisette. Coppola has already won two Palme d'Ors, in 1975 for "The Conversation" and in 1979 for "Apocalypse Now", but has not made a film that has generated significant attention for 30 years. In the meantime, his daughter Sofia has become more famous than her father. "Megalopolis" was heralded as the resurrection and cinematic legacy of the now 85-year-old. The result is, to put it briefly, quite a debacle. Well-meaning critics, on the other hand, call it a masterpiece. The French film magazine "Cahiers de Cinema" already saw another Palme d'Or on the horizon.

What is it about? For Coppola, New York is "New Rome". "I wanted to make a Roman epic set in modern America," says the director and author. An architect with the classical name Cesar Catilina (Adam Driver) - fittingly sporting a classic Roman hairstyle - is tasked with rebuilding New York and dreams of a utopian city of the future.

His opponent, the black mayor Frank Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), is preoccupied with more pressing problems than utopian urban planning. There is also the wealthy banker Hamilton Crassus III (Jon Voight), the architect's uncle, without whose financing nothing happens in 'New Rome'. According to Coppola himself, he wanted to reverse the roles of the Catiline Conspiracy from the 1st century BC. Adam Driver's Catilina is the good guy, Esposito's Cicero the corrupt one. Originally intended to be shot in the Cinecittà studios in Rome, the film was ultimately realised in a studio in Atlanta. The scenery has a correspondingly artificial feel, no real sense of New York, everything looks like a backdrop, for example when Adam Driver's character balances on the tower of the Chrysler Building in the opening sequence. He almost falls, but he not only is a brilliant architect, he also has the ability to stop time. Superpower like in a Marvel film.

Coppola has been working on the screenplay for 40 years, it is said that it has been rewritten three hundred times, but in the end it comes across as a mishmash of confused ideas and pompous commentaries on the future of humanity. Like a series of pseudo-philosophical calendar sayings and maxims. All kinds of intellectual luminaries are quoted, from Shakespeare to Rousseau.

As one source of inspiration, Coppola cites the architectural novel "Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand, an icon of the libertarian movement with right-wing political leanings.  It is perhaps not a coincidence that the negative portrayal of the black mayor Cicero and his Jewish advisor Nush (Dustin Hoffman) has a racist undertone.

In order to be completely independent, Coppola financed the production costs of around 120 million dollars out of his own pocket. However, the personal union of producer, writer and director was not an ideal constellation. As the Guardian reports, the filming was extremely chaotic, which is evident in the finished film. The newspaper quotes a member of the team as saying: "It sounds crazy, but there were times when we stood around and asked ourselves: 'Has this guy ever made a film?" A statement reminiscent of the comment made by cinematographer Gordon Willis, who shot "The Godfather" with Coppola and said in an interview with 3sat shortly before his death, "Francis is like an eternal film student, full of crazy and creative ideas. But he doesn't know how to realise them. I told him: 'That's all well and good, but where are you going to put the camera?" Many of those who worked on the film are convinced that it was Gordon Willis' unique style that made "The Godfather" so extraordinary.

As a cinematic legacy, "Megalopolis" is above all a testimony to megalomaniacal hubris.

The Apprentice Years of Donald Trump

E"The Apprentice", the fourth film by Swedish-based Iranian director Ali Abbasi, demonstrates an intelligent way of dealing with New York and urban planning cinematically. Two years ago, he caused a stir in Cannes with "Holy Spider", for which his leading actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi was honoured as best actress.

"The Apprentice" is about the young Donald Trump (Sebastian Stan), who is brought up by his father as a "killer" in order to succeed in life and in the family's construction company. But Donald is not quite there yet. As a handyman, he has to collect the rent for his father in a cheap flat block. Eventually he meets the cunning lawyer Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong), in whom he finds his mentor. Cohn was a communist hunter on Senator McCarthy's side and boasts of having sent the alleged atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair. Jeremy Strong is fantastic in the role of a gay bon vivant and aggressive lawyer who has the New York judiciary and city council in his pocket. Cohn teaches the young Trump three elementary rules for success.

1. attack mercilessly,
2. not taking responsibility, denying everything,
3. not recognising defeats, selling everything as a victory.

Later, as a successful businessman, the apprentice will present these principles to the ghostwriter of his business philosophy "The Art of the Deal" as his very personal recipe for success. Character traits that can also be found in the future president, but the film's story doesn't go that far.

Sebastian Stan manages not to caricature Donald Trump, but to portray him in such a nuanced way that he seems quite human at times. These are features that disappear more and more in the course of his success until all that remains is a cynical man of ambition without any morality.

While George Miller leads us through an exhaust-fuelled recycling world after the ecological apocalypse, Francis Ford Coppola's combination of Roman antiquity and modern New York itself becomes a sort of cinematic apocalypse. The Swedish Iranian director Ali Abbasi outshines the two old masters easily with his portrait of the young Donald Trump.