Cannes 2012 | Moonrise Kingdom

What's going on at Camp Ivanhoe? I snapped that photo 50 paces from the apartment I'm sharing, which is on a hill and normally several hundred feet above the hype on the Croisette, where the Cannes Film Festival kicked off today. Yet here's a promotional event for Moonrise Kingdom, the Wes Anderson movie that opened the fest. Cannes rarely settles for simply showing a film; each competition title is more like a combo parade–cocktail party–shouting match–junket that lasts for 48 hours, as everyone in town catches up with a particular title and dutifully tweets his or her view. After screenings, critics wander into the Palais des Festivals for press conferences. What I caught of this morning's Moonrise Kingdom panel had its charms. (Newcomer Jared Gilman credited costar Bill Murray with teaching him how to tie a tie. "Jared, you're not wearing a tie today," Murray joshed. "What does that say about what I taught you?")



For once, the opening-day love-in was warranted. The festival's first film is often an expensive dud, but Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom (which hits Chicago theaters June 1) is terrific, simultaneously the apotheosis and refinement of the filmmaker's brand. Applying his childlike flights of fancy to a legitimately childlike milieu, it's his most harmonious balance of style and content since Rushmore. The movie tells the story of two 12-year-olds (newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, both in star-making turns) who run away on an island in 1965, pitching camp, fending off a rather aggressive search party of boy scouts, and falling in love.


The movie is bookended by dazzling tracking shots set to Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," and in keeping with that piece's theme, the cast of famous faces—Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel—is used almost orchestrally, with each actor striking a single, resonant note. Anderson's whimsical touches abound. (My favorite: Willis's police officer contacts land-dwellers by radio, but everyone on the other end simply uses a phone.) While the visual, verbal and musical playfulness is a constant delight, Moonrise Kingdom seems, at 93 minutes, more streamlined than Anderson's other films. Sight gags fly by briskly; the comic bric-a-brac is less obtrusive than usual. I'd have to see the movie again to catch all the subtleties. I can't wait. 


Briefly: Today I also caught Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, a fawning, feature-length interview with the director conducted by his good friend Andrew Braunsberg. With softball after softball, the chat is so chummy as to be borderline unendurable. "Where did your showbiz career really begin?" Braunsberg asks, as if challenging James Lipton for mastery of the obvious. Later, Braunsberg attempts to ease into what he delicately calls "this experience with Samantha." There's a self-evident fascination in Polanski relaying his own life story, but a puff piece like A Film Memoir represents a wasted opportunity.



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