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May 15, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Director Jim Jarmusch at Cannes Film Festival

You might describe it as a DOA opener at the world’s most prestigious film festival.

The Cannes Film Festival kicked off Tuesday with director Jim Jarmusch’s campy zombie movie, The Dead Don’t Die, which is among 21 movies contending this year for the festival’s top trophy, the Palme d’Or. Thousands of fans crunched together across from the Croisette to watch the film’s all-star cast, including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny and Selena Gomez, climb the red carpet to the Grand Theatre Lumiere where the movie was given its world premiere.

Chris Gardner of the Hollywood Reporter later described the audience response as “tepid,” adding that the movie failed to enliven the festival’s opening night. The problem may have been that the crowd had already seen previous satirical zombie movies that they enjoyed more, something that critic Owen Gleiberman alluded to in his review in Variety: “The trouble with The Dead Don’t Die, he wrote, “is that the notion of treating a zombie uprising as a pitch-black comedy drenched in attitude has already been done to death.” But veteran critic James Mottram, in a review appearing in the South China Post, observed that Jarmusch was likely paying homage to those previous films. “It feels like Jarmusch has observed from afar the spate of flesh-eater movies that have populated cinemas these past years, then added his own wry spin on the genre,” Mottram remarked. Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacheric was simply “amiable,” adding that it “happily and quite obviously borrows from the zombie canon, particularly as it was laid out—and then revived and tweaked, often with staggering effectiveness—by Night of the Living Dead filmmaker George A. Romero.” The New York Times collared Luiz Oliveira, a film critic from the Brazilian news portal Metrópoles, as he left the theater and quoted him as saying, “Audiences that expected a normal zombie movie will be kind of upset by the pacing of this movie, but people who know Jarmusch’s work will be very happy.”

At a news conference on Wednesday, Jarmusch himself acknowledged that he intentionally referenced the work of other directors of zombie movies in The Dead Don’t Die. “George Romero was certainly our guide,” he said.