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May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Hollywood movie premieres ain’t what they used to be. The days when a film’s debut at movie “palaces” attracted stars wearing dresses created by famous coutouriers just for the event (and often never worn again), arriving in limousines and descending onto a red carpet as dozens of press photographers captured their beauty for people to savor with their morning coffee the next day, the searchlights, the gushy interviewers, the TV cameras, the overall spectacle — all of that is all but gone. Unless the film has been selected to premiere half a world away at the Cannes Film Festival. This year’s 70th edition of the festival opened on Wednesday night with all the old-timey pageantry, plus a battalion of armed police and other security personnel assigned to prevent terrorists from turning the night into the horror that struck nearby Nice during the Bastille Day celebrations last year when 86 people were killed. Unfortunately, the film that the glitterati turned out to see, Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismail’s Ghost (Les Fantômes d’Ismaël), starring Marion Cotillard, received some of the most abysmal reviews for any opening film in the festival’s history. Variety‘s critic, Peter Debruge, wrote that it was hard to swallow, adding that if the film “were a meal, it would be a massive slab of off-tasting meat alternative, wrapped in fake bacon, cooked in margarine, then covered in dairy-free imitation cheese.” Deadline‘s critic Joe Utichi called the film “atrocious” The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw described it as “a twirl of pure time-wasting silliness” and “chaotic nonsense,” although he allowed that Cotillard “performs her part to the best of her considerable abilities.” On the other hand, a few critics found much to praise about the film. Lisa Nesselson, in Britain’s Screen Daily, for example, said that it exhibits the “panache of a creator whose creations are still full of surprises, even for him.” In the Hollywood Reporter, Boyd van Hoeij wrote that the film amounts to Desplechin’s “magnum opus” that “takes great pleasure in playing with all of the writer-director’s obsessions, themes and styles.” He especially praised Cotillard for a scene “that’s a small tour de force of sheer stage presence.” And Eric Kohn in IndieWire concluded that the film is both a “wild hodgepodge of genres” but also “a freewheeling gambit, hurtling in multiple directions at once, and it’s thrilling to watch Desplechin try [to] juggle them all.” More intriguing films are almost certain to follow. As Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang observed, “The festival seems to go out of its way to select an [opening] film that won’t upstage the star-packed, auteur-heavy main program.”