Ageing maestros and strong women at epic Cannes fest
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Ageing maestros and strong women at epic Cannes fest

Memorable moments recapped as annual film binge enters home stretch

Ageing maestros and strong women at epic Cannes fest
Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro brought the hottest ticket in town, the premiere of Killers of the Flower Moon. (Photo: AFP)

CANNES, France: This year's Cannes Film Festival has been an epic mix of ground-breaking women's perspectives and nostalgic homages to icons of the 20th century.

As it heads into awards night on Saturday, the 76th edition of the French Riviera festival has been a feast for film-lovers. Here are some of the highlights.

Old masters 

At times, Cannes felt like a sort of dream retirement home populated by ageing male film icons.

Harrison Ford, 80, showed he still had stamina in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and got weepy when given an honorary Palme d'Or.

Martin Scorsese, 80, and Robert De Niro, 79, brought their new film, Killers of the Flower Moon.

European auteurs Ken Loach, 86, Marco Bellocchio, 83, Wim Wenders, 77, and Victor Erice, 82, all premiered new films — Erice with his first in 40 years.

It was notable that many of the starriest attendees made their names in the 1980s and 1990s: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Jude Law.

"Over the last 10 years, we've done a really shitty job of creating a new generation of movie stars," one Hollywood agent moaned to Variety.

Female gaze 

Michael Douglas, 78, who also got an honorary Palme d'Or, regaled the festival with memories of showing the erotic thriller Basic Instinct here in 1992.

"Watching those sex scenes on the biggest screen I'd ever seen ... we had a very quiet dinner afterwards," he quipped.

But it underlined how things have changed, with many films this year presenting more of a woman's perspective.

"The entire range of human behaviour should be accessible to women," said Portman, whose new film May December is a campy but complex look at a loving mother with a buried past as a sex offender.

While Jude Law grabbed headlines as a tyrannical King Henry VIII in Firebrand, the film's spotlight was really on Alicia Vikander as Catherine Parr, trying to escape the fate of the king's previous wives.

Among many other examples were Four Daughters about a mother's role in the radicalisation of her children, and How to Have Sex ,a nuanced look at assault and consent among boozed-up Brits abroad.

Hueller's double

It was a strong competition this year and Germany's Sandra Hueller starred in two of the most stand-out films.

In The Zone of Interest from British director Jonathan Glazer, she chillingly played the wife of a Nazi camp commandant, proud to be known as "the queen of Auschwitz".

The unique film never shows the horrors of the camp, leaving them to be implied by background noises and small visual details.

She also starred in Anatomy of a Fall, another women-focused film, lauded by critics, about a wife accused of her husband's murder.

Long films

Audience patience was tested repeatedly, with Oscar-winner Steve McQueen presenting Occupied City, a four-hour documentary about Amsterdam.

Scorsese's Native American epic was widely praised though everyone felt the 210-minute runtime was a bit much.

Ditto Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which stretched the action out for more than two-and-a-half hours.

A documentary about Chinese workers, Youth (Spring) also clocked in at 210 minutes, and director Wang Bing warned he plans two more chapters that will make it over nine hours.


Helen Mirren got the ball rolling in style with a blue updo on opening night — but the red carpet was often more understated after that.

The on trend "naked look" was adopted by models Julia Fox and Irina Shayk.

Otherwise, vintage scored the biggest hits: Portman in a recreation of Christian Dior's famous 1949 Junon dress, and Lily-Rose Depp in a classic black sequin number from the Chanel archives.

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