Stars come out for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City premiere

CANNES — A bus full of celebrities poured onto the Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet on Tuesday evening for the premiere of director Wes Anderson’s new space-themed fable, Asteroid City.

As with his previous films, Mr. Anderson’s cast is a who’s who of Hollywood stars, including Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Adrien Brody and Margot Robbie. Notably absent is Bill Murray, who has been in almost all of Anderson’s films but missed this one due to being sick from COVID-19 during filming.

Mr. Anderson told journalists on Wednesday that making Asteroid City, which features a quarantine scene, while pandemic protocols were in place had worked well for the cast and crew.

“Our set was enormous — it was a desert. But it was a closed desert that was there just for this little group of people and a camera in the middle of it somewhere to play these imaginary scenes, so I don’t want to say it was good for the movie but we used it in a way that wasn’t bad,” he said.

The film received a six-minute standing ovation following its world premiere at the plush Grand Theatre Lumiere.

Asteroid City is the name of the fictional town in the southwestern United States where the movie, set in the 1950s, takes place. Famous for its meteor crater and observatory, the town is hosting a convention for young scientists when an unidentified flying object (UFO) disrupts the celebrations and upends attendees’ lives.

Mr. Schwartzman stars as Augie Steenbeck, a war photographer grieving the death of his wife, whose car breaks down in the town with his three young daughters and son in tow. His love interest is famous actor Midge Campbell, played by Ms. Johansson, who is in town to attend the convention with her daughter.

This main story line is encased in a complicated framing device in which it is actually a stage play, and the process of putting on this play is the focus of a black-and-white TV program with an unnamed host played by Mr. Cranston.

“It’s Wes’ love letter to performance art, and he wrapped his arms around the three major mediums that we are involved in,” Cranston told journalists on Wednesday.

Ms. Johansson, who had only previously worked with Mr. Anderson on his animated film Isle of Dogs, said the way Asteroid City was filmed, with a real set, felt similar to doing theater.

“Because you have the whole tangible space, it’s not the familiar process of being on a sound stage and going back to your trailer and all this down time — all this stuff that eats up momentum,” said Ms. Johansson, who has previously worked on Marvel superhero films heavy on CGI, such as Black Widow.

Asteroid City marks the third time the director, known for his unique visual style, has competed for the festival’s top prize. His last entry was 2021’ s The French Dispatch.

Anderson teamed up to write Asteroid City with Roman Coppola, with whom he has collaborated in the past on movies such as Oscar-nominated Moonrise Kingdom and Isle of Dogs.

The movie received mixed reviews, with critics praising its visual detail and style but deducting points for being light on emotional content. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper gave it four out of five stars while Variety wrote it “looks smashing, but as a movie it’s for Anderson die-hards only, and maybe not even too many of them.”

Nanni Moretti’s A Brighter Tomorrow

RENOWNED Italian director Nanni Moretti both directs and stars in A Brighter Tomorrow, which premiered worldwide on Wednesday and is his ninth film to compete for the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize.

So far he has come home with the Palme d’Or only once — more than 20 years ago, with The Son’s Room in 2001.

His other accolades include the Venice Film Festival’s special jury prize in 1981 with Sweet Dreams and the Berlin Film Festival’s second prize, the Silver Bear, in 1986 with The Mass Is Ended.

Mr. Moretti, 69, who often plays the lead role in his films, this time is Giovanni, a movie director. Giovanni is facing troubles both with his family and his latest film project, which is focused on the effects of the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary on Italy’s Communist Party. Giovanni firmly believes in the project and the need to tell the story of the Italian Communist Party at that time and how it missed the opportunity to break away from the Soviet Union, said Mr. Moretti, adding: “But today, no one remembers these events, the world has changed and so has the way films are made.”

The Variety trade publication reported this month that the Rome-based film, which had special permission to be released locally ahead of its Cannes premiere, has already done well commercially since its April 20 release in roughly 500 theaters.

Mr. Moretti served as president of the Cannes jury in 2012. His first film in Cannes’ official selection was 1978’s Ecce bombo.

Italy’s Bellocchio debuts Kidnapped

ITALIAN director Marco Bellocchio, a Cannes Film Festival regular, was on the French Riviera city’s red carpet on Tuesday with Kidnapped, his eighth attempt at winning a Palme d’Or.

Kidnapped centers around the true story of Edgardo Mortara, a six-year-old Jewish boy from Bologna who was seized by the Catholic Church in 1858 after it determined he needed a Catholic education because he was secretly baptized as an infant.

The case took on political dimensions after his parents, supported by public opinion and the international Jewish community, challenged the Church at a time when its power was starting to wane during the lead-up to the unification of Italy.

Famed US director Steven Spielberg had initially been interested in making the film, but eventually did not go ahead with it, Mr. Bellocchio told the Variety trade publication, adding that he believed it “crucial” the film was made in Italian for realism.

Enea Sala plays the young Edgardo, whom Mr. Bellocchio found after a long casting process.

“Whereas with professional actors you can work on forging the character, with a kid they either work or they don’t. He put a lot of effort into it and it paid off handsomely,” he said.

Mr. Bellocchio, who first competed for the festival’s top prize in 1980 with A Leap in the Dark, received an honorary Golden Palme recognizing his cinematic contributions in 2021.

Last year, Mr. Bellocchio released another cinematic project about kidnapping, the six-part series Exterior Night about the 1978 abduction and assassination of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro.

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