Cannes 2022: Is a superstar worth more than a festival?

Media madness in front of the arrival of Tom Cruise at the exhibition of "Top Gun Maverick".  REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Media madness in front of Tom Cruise’s arrival at the “Top Gun Maverick” exhibition. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

(Special envoy. Cannes) The Cannes Film Festival usually bets almost everything on its first week, trying to generate global media attention with its films and its stars. But this year so far the highlight hasn’t been the official competition, but parallel events and celebrities who come here with the plan to promote their upcoming releases. The place has regained its pre-pandemic rhythm – it is full of people and hardly anyone wears a mask – but it seems that the cinema still has to live up to the production of the last “normal” edition of the festival, back in 2019.

Of the official competition the only thing that seems to stand out so far is Armageddon Timeautobiographical film James Gray in which the director of Ad Astra tells of his childhood in New York’s Queens in 1980, when he was eleven years old and went to a complicated public school. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and the star of Succession Jeremy Strong, is an intelligent coming-of-age story that shows how racism comes hand in hand with the ambition of an immigrant family like his to access the mythical “American dream”. And it is also a tender film about the charming relationship between a grandfather and his grandson in which the veteran Welsh actor from The secret of the innocents.

A postcard of the passage through the famous "Red carpet" prior to the exhibition "Armageddon Time".  Accompanying the director are James Gray, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta Jaylin Webb.  REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
A postcard of the passage through the famous “red carpet” prior to the exhibition of “Armageddon Time”. Accompanying the director are James Gray, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta Jaylin Webb. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

The other films that have been presented so far in the competition do not exceed average or are directly weak. The acceptable but very long Italian drama the eight mountains soberly adapts the homonymous novel by Paolo Cognetti but it fails to give it true cinematic force. and the russian movie Tchaikovsky’s wifedirected by the dissident and now exiled filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikovhas an undeniable visual impact but never gets the viewer to share the suffering of Antoninethe woman who married the famous composer without knowing –or being able to accept– that the man was secretly homosexual and did so only for appearances.

Kirill Serebrennikov, director of "Zhena Tchaikovsky" (Tchaikovsky's wife. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Kirill Serebrennikov, director of “Zhena Chaikovskogo” (Tchaikovsky’s Wife. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Without much flight in the competition, the attention went elsewhere. From the outset it was known that Tom Cruise It was going to be the great figure of this edition. But one thing is to read it and another is to see it. On Wednesday night, while planes crossed the sky of the French city at full speed and fireworks exploded in the sky as if they were one more special effect of a Hollywood blockbuster, it was clear the dimension that the figure of the actor took on with the passing of the decades. Seeing him here – a place used to having all the movie legends – it was as if some small but all-powerful God descended from Olympus and joined the humans.

frame of "Top Gun Maverick"
Still from “Top Gun Maverick”

Cruise he did his whole show here. It was a spectacle put together with a military precision that resembles the plot of Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to his classic 1986 film that he came to present out of competition. The man made his prepared Masterclass, his career was given a “surprise” Palme d’Or, a 15-minute tribute clip was put together that covers almost his entire filmography (long, yes, but with many iconic moments) and, After the projection, he was applauded for almost ten minutes while everyone’s cell phones did not stop recording, transmitting or photographing him surrounded by his peers in the film, including Jennifer Connelly Y Jon Ham, nothing less. But Cruise is Cruise and everyone disappears as soon as the guy flashes his trademark smile.

At this point it seems unthinkable but there was a time when Cruise was not very respected and nobody considered him a great actor or a myth of the screen. But time heals everything and, as the man managed to build a very solid career over the decades, respect appeared and has only grown since then. He was also helped by being one of the few stars, perhaps the only one, who continues today to have the same or more success than in the ’80s and ’90s.

Tom Cruise, a little human God, poses with his fans in Cannes.  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Tom Cruise, a little human God, poses with his fans in Cannes. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Top Gun: Maverick It is the beginning of a couple of years for all of Cruise, which will also include two sequels to Mission Impossible who filmed one after another in the midst of a pandemic, something that can only occur to a guy like him. The stories of that double shooting are already legendary but for that there is time. The film that arrives now was shot before 2020 and waited its turn because Tom flatly refused to go directly – or within a few days of its theatrical release – to any streaming platform. It’s understandable: if the guy is going to risk his life flying a jet at full speed, the least you can do is watch it on the big screen.

The film, directed by Joseph Kosinski, is a neat tribute to the original, both a sequel and a remake, a way of combining Cruise with a generation of young actors closer in age to the public that today goes to the movies to see action blockbusters. Tom reprises the role of fast but somewhat irresponsible pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, is involved in another dangerous mission and must deal with personal and professional problems. And the film advances with the sure hand of someone who handles the conventions of the genre. But not the director, but Cruise, since everyone knows that he is the real director of the movies he stars in. And seeing Top Gun: Maverick it is clear that man knows how to honor himself. On and off screen. This Cannes 2022, until now at least, is a party dedicated to that fascinating and somewhat indecipherable myth called Tom Cruise.

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