The 75th annual Cannes Film Festival: May 2022

Freeze at the Berlin Film Festival or twelve days at the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival in the south of France? This is what was put to me to set the scene for Cannes – warm breezes and silky smooth swimming in the Mediterranean sea, but it’s all about the films, and the glamorous sparkle of celebrity attendance. Films screen in world-class cinemas with red carpet events every day, as well as up close and personal encounters with filmmakers and actors at press conferences – the Cannes Film Festival always delivers.

The 75th annual Cannes Film Festival

Bright lights city gonna set my soul on fire.

An Elvis film or the Cannes Film Festival? It was both. Both have the razzamatazz but both also take their art seriously.

Baz Luhrmann’s new film ‘Elvis’ took the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival by storm with a twelve-minute standing ovation.

In Australian cinemas soon from 23 June, ‘Elvis’ looks at the story of the legendary singer primarily through his relationship with manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). 

From delving into Elvis’s youth hanging out in black jazz clubs to life with Priscilla, Baz Lurhmann is a stickler for research. He and his team stayed in a room behind Graceland, tracked down one of Elvis’s black childhood friends, and Luhrmann also developed a connection with Priscilla. 

The film is a heady mix of music, fabulous costumes, and magnificent performances from Hanks and newcomer Austin Butler, who uncannily looks like Elvis.

Crazy for Cruise

But if Cannes made a fuss of Baz, it went nuts for Tom Cruise and his film ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. 

‘Danger Zone’, the theme song from the original Top Gun film, blasts over the red carpet before the screening, and then eight fighter jets in formation roar overhead and around Cannes leaving behind red, white, and blue vapour trails. Even my Cannes weary landlady is impressed. Even more so with the magnificent fireworks display that evening. 

Cruise, like Luhrmann, unashamedly makes larger-than-life films for entertainment, and for the big screen. Speaking to a packed theatre at the Festival, Cruise was adamant that his films would never launch on a streaming service. 

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ not only offers adrenaline-pumping action scenes and nail-biting high-speed flying jet sequences but interestingly changes gears to the more reflective themes of grief and loss.

There was a lot of talk in Cannes about the thrill of being in cinemas again and how that electric feeling of sharing a screening together with a like-minded community, hands down beats viewing on a TV at home.

Fabulous French Films

But the French films! The Opening Night film was the marvelous ‘Coupez!’, billed as a French zombie film. But it’s not. It starts out with such bad acting that within ten minutes someone in the cinema shouts: “This is horrible,” and walks out, followed by a few more people. I just thought the film was going to be a ‘so bad it’s camp’ film, much like the old Adam West ‘Batman’ series of my childhood. 

Without giving too much away, this zombie film has two reveals that explain what’s happening – but I’m not going to, as I don’t want to ruin it for you. My advice is to not read about the film, just go see it. 

Directed by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, ‘Coupez!’ (or ‘Final Cut!’) stars the talented Romain Duris as a struggling film director who gets an offer to remake a Japanese horror film – in one take.

And what would a French film festival be without Jean Dujardin? He and the ever-charming Sandrine Kiberlaine star in the film ‘Novembre’ about the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris including the Bataclan concert hall. Directed by Cédric Jimenez, the film follows a team of investigators as they try to track and catch the terrorists.

It’s a film that could very well be a documentary, except of course the film has more narrative latitude and doesn’t re-traumatise the people involved.

Dujardin plays Fred, the lead investigator. He tells his team that if they are affected by the events, if they feel they can’t work on this assignment, then please stand down, there will be no judgment.

I asked this very question of the cast at the Cannes press conference for this film – how did you cope with making this film, given the emotional trauma of these events in your home city, in your country? Answers ranged from needing to process the events to respecting the characters by not unnecessarily ‘acting’.

Another Australian Film

George Miller’s new film ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ stars the ridiculously charismatic Idris Elba and the translucent-skinned Tilda Swinton. It is an adaptation of the short story ‘The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye’ by A. S. Byatt and adapted by Miller and his daughter Augusta Gore.

It’s not for everybody, it’s a little eccentric (hello, Tilda Swinton is in it) but I loved this film, which has both philosophical discussions and explorations of other planes of existence. Not to mention Miller’s talent for transporting the audience into other worlds. 

While attending a conference in Istanbul, Dr. Alithea Binnie (Swinton) buys an old bottle at a bazaar, and while cleaning it releases a djinn or genie (Elba), who gives her three wishes.

This sets off a series of philosophical discussions of the value, and danger, of wishes – ‘when has making wishes ever gone right’ she asks. Horrified, as the djinn will never be free until she makes her three wishes, he attempts to make her understand his predicament by telling her/us the stories of his imprisonment in bottles from the time of the Queen of Sheba to the court of Suleiman.


Oh, how I love a good documentary. I saw two – ‘For the Sake of Peace’, which Forrest Whitaker produced, and ‘All That Breathes’, the only entry from India (apart from two restored classics).

Forest Whitaker was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Palme d’Or at Cannes. 

‘For the Sake of Peace’ looks at the efforts by two young people to combat the violence and trauma in South Sudan. Whitaker founded a ‘Youth Peacekeeping Network’, which features in the film.

A young extremely brave South Sudanese woman, Nandege, trained as a peace mediator by Whitaker’s organisation, puts herself in danger as she tries to broker peace between two warring tribes killing each other to steal cattle.

A monumental task, as not only is she considered a lowly woman, but she is young and they are killers; she could die at any moment. 

Peace is difficult for many reasons, including the concept of manhood entwined with violence and killing, and of course making money.

Whitaker says his organisation also provides support for people and businesses to provide pathways to earning an income. And to the question of violence and manhood, the second thread of the documentary follows Gatjang, a young man in a refugee camp who organises soccer matches, teaching others that problems can be solved with teamwork rather than violence.

The work of these two young people is inspiring and really shows the transformative actions of ‘the power of one’.

‘All that Breathes’ is a moving film that follows three brothers who, since they were children, have devoted their lives to rescuing and treating injured Black Kites. The local bird rescue won’t help the kites as they eat meat. Whether this is because the meat is so expensive or maybe a religious issue is never explained.

The brothers support themselves by manufacturing soap dispensers, but they still need more money as more injured birds are coming in due to global warming and increasing pollution in the air.

After failed attempts at securing grants, a newspaper article about the brothers’ work finally gives them recognition and a grant to build a bird hospital.

Were you at The 75th annual Cannes Film Festival? Have you ever been to a Cannes Film Festival? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

Image Credits:
All images copyright Cynthia Karena

About the Contributor

Cynthia Karena

I am a freelance journalist, TV researcher and media trainer based in Melbourne. I write about tech, film, sustainability and travel among other things - and of course, all things French for You can find me on Twitter and Instagram

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One Comment

  1. Judy Jun 26, 2022 at 10:13 AM - Reply

    Oh to have been there with you Cynthia!!! Thanks for such great coverage!

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