Director Francis Ford Coppola, third from right, poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Megalopolis' at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 16, 2024. Source: Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

2024 Cannes Dispatch 2: The Palais Filled with International Triumphs and a Legendary Disaster

Matthew Creith READ TIME: 7 MIN.

The second and third days of the 77th Cannes Film Festival assembled quite the buzz around The Croisette, starting in the early morning hours this week. After the beautiful opening ceremony honoring Greta Gerwig and Meryl Streep the night before the festival made its way to showcasing some more international features and huge Hollywood blockbuster premieres.

There was extreme excitement in the air as several highly anticipated movies were finally shown to a willing audience, though some might have wished their projects didn't see the light of day.

My festival experience continued with the unbelievably interesting film, "Wild Diamond" ("Diamant Brut"), the debut from French director Agathe Riedinger. A coming-of-age drama featuring the debut performance from the incredibly talented Malou Khebizi, the film explores social media culture and the downfalls it can take when people are more interested in amounting likes and followers than they are in the real world. It was a difficult watch in moments, cradled by the fact that only Khebizi's character of Liane is the most developed of anyone on the screen, including her friends, love interest, younger sister, and even the internet trolls that hound her existence.

Liane is a 19-year-old teenager obsessed with beauty and demonstrating her fake breasts on Instagram, often accompanied by her talents as an amateur dancer. She is so consumed by the idea of being famous and beautiful that she auditions for a reality show called "Miracle Island" as a way to gain more fandom. While she awaits the call saying she booked the coveted gig, Liane spirals out of control and contemplates nothing but making sure she becomes rich and famous.

"Wild Diamond" is a tough watch, but because of Khebizi's performance, the movie almost reaches perfection to a nauseating degree. Riedinger's direction is raw and uninhibited, using a faceless casting director for the reality show as an immoral compass for all of Liane's desires and life goals. It's a marvelous film debut for Khebizi. Still, the film harkens back to Aubrey Plaza's character in "Ingrid Goes West," trending toward darker territory, making me squirm, anticipating what could come next for our fateful anti-hero.

The next film on my agenda was the surprising "Simon of the Mountain" ("Simon de la Montaña") from Argentinian director Federico Luis. A semi-autobiographical movie selected in the Critics' Week category at Cannes, Lorenzo Ferro stars as the titular Simon, a 21-year-old looking for some purpose in his life. Simon is interviewed several times in the film, once in a location on a mountainside where he befriends a couple of disabled children. Another interview occurs during a psychiatric evaluation, and there's little context as to why Simon ended up where he is.

The movie is disjointed as we understand that Simon doesn't feel he belongs anywhere. It's mainly through Simon's experiences after meeting the disabled children that we learn more about the young man and how much he wants to change his present circumstances. The film is semi-improvised and based on Luis' own experiences with the disabled community, a group with which the character of Simon desperately wants to stay even though he isn't disabled himself.

"Simon of the Mountain" isn't for everyone, and many scenes left me wondering more about Simon than what is presented in the film. I wanted to understand more about the character and exactly why he feels attracted to the situations he finds himself in. Luis clearly wants his audience to realize that Simon desires independence amongst a community he doesn't belong to, though the movie doesn't drive home the point as eloquently as the director probably hoped it would. I left the screening more confused than I had wanted going into it, and it's not a film that's stayed with me since first viewing.

But Cannes isn't just known for international features and short films premiering on the world stage, as the famous festival launches some incredible Hollywood blockbusters that will surely put butts in seats in the United States and abroad. My next film was "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga," the prequel to "Mad Max: Fury Road" and the fifth film in the franchise. Directed by longtime "Mad Max" creator George Miller, the movie stars Anya Taylor-Joy as the younger version of the character Furiosa, portrayed in the 2015 film by Charlize Theron.

"Furiosa" is undoubtedly chaotic in the best possible way. Anyone who's watched any of the "Mad Max" films will note how hyper-energized all of these films in the series are, largely due to Miller's directorial style, which incorporates high-octane action sequences in his native Australia. The film contains graphic sequences featuring actors Tom Burke and Chris Hemsworth, both at the top of their game as the love interest and villain, respectively.

by Matthew Creith

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