WONDERSTRUCK Hits Cannes

Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Brian Selznick’s middle grade novel Wonderstruck (Scholastic, 2011) was screened this morning at the Cannes Film Festival, bringing mixed reactions. On the positive side, the AP writes, “The cacophony of the Cannes Film Festival was tamed Thursday by a deaf 14-year-old actress, Millicent Simmonds, whose screen debut is being hailed as a breakthrough.”

Describing the film itself, the AP calls it, “Fanciful and sentimental … an unlikely family-friendly turn for Haynes, the director of Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce. But it doubles down on his fondness for period tales, weaving parallel story lines from 1927 and 1977.”

Variety‘s Chief Film Critic Owen Gleiberman is more subdued, saying the film is “a lovingly crafted adventure of innocence that winds up being less than the sum of its parts.” The Hollywood Reporter says the the screening drew merely a “polite burst of applause from the assembled press,” but adds the film “can be expected to be welcomed with a lot of warm reviews.”

Produced by Amazon Studios, Wonderstruck enters the Festival as concerns are heating up over changes in the way, as Variety puts it, “people are consuming content,” with particular animosity directed at Netflix, which has two films in competition that were originally scheduled to debut on the company’s streaming service, thus bypassing theaters (they have since changed that plan).

On the other hand, Amazon works in partnership with theatrical distributor Roadside Attractions, which will open Wonderstruck in limited release on October 20, but there is still concern about whether they will stick to that arrangement for future films.

Expressing his displeasure with Netflix at a press conference, Cannes jury president, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, stated his position,

I’ll be fighting for one thing that I’m afraid the new generation is not aware of. It’s the capacity of the hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer. “The size [of the screen] should not be smaller than the chair on which you’re sitting. It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must feel small and humble in front of the image that’s here.

Actor Will Smith, also on the panel, basically said “good luck with that,” responding that his three children, “go to the movies twice a week and they watch Netflix. There’s very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix in my home.” Variety dryly notes, “Netflix, it just so happens, is the distributor of Smith’s next movie, the big-budget Bright, which opens this year.”

Amazon Studios, which were greeted at the Festival last year with open arms, are facing a chiller reception this year. Variety reports there was “a loud but isolated groan” when Amazon’s credit appeared on the screen during the showing of Wonderstruck.  Todd Haynes felt compelled to defend Amazon‘s commitment to theaters by asserting, “The film division at Amazon is made up of true cineastes who love movies and really want to try and provide opportunity for independent film visions to find their footing in a vastly shifting market.”

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