Armageddon Time, in Official Competition, marks James Gray’s return to the Croisette nine years after The Immigrant with a trio of stars: Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong.
Cannes Film Festival 2022: directed by the acclaimed American filmmaker James Gray, Armageddon Time is a rather personal film about the strength of family and the generational pursuit of the American dream. The film features a stellar cast including Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong. Seven years after the thunderous Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller plunges audiences into the philosophical fantasy of Three Thousand Years of Longing, screened Out of Competition.
Three Vows for Freedom
Three Thousand Years of Longing, eleventh film of George Miller, president of the Jury at Cannes in 2016, tells the story of a Djinn (Idris Elba) that Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), a jaded and sceptical storytelling specialist, meets in Istanbul. The Djinn has been locked in a bottle for three thousand years and offers to grant her three wishes in exchange for her freedom. To convince her to accept, the spirit tells her about his past, made up of incredible encounters. Seduced by his stories, she ends up making a most surprising wish. If “human beings have a visceral need to be told stories”, explains George Miller, the way in which they are told remains the most important. The film is based on a short story, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt.
Confrontation of two dreams
A regular at the Cannes Film Festival, where he has presented five films in 22 years, James Gray returns to the Croisette in style with a more intimate film that evokes his own childhood, which serves as the backdrop for the film. Centred around the trio of Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong, the film tells of the confrontation of the artistic dream of a young boy gifted in drawing with the American dream that inspired the destiny of his elders, immigrants facing hatred of the Jews in Europe. In the America of the 1980s, dominated by Ronald Reagan’s ideas of good versus evil, Paul’s passage to adulthood will lead him to discover the elitism and racism of white society, notions that were foreign to him in the public school he attended before being sent to a stuffy public school whose board of directors is chaired by Donald Trump’s father.
Transmission between generations
Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), from a middle-class Jewish family, attendsschool in a a quiet New York neighbourhood where his rebellious nature makes him popular but leads to reprimands that bring him closer to Johnny (Jaylin Webb), the other troublemaker in his class, who has already learned a lot from the ostracism due to his skin colour. The film is also about the inter-generational transmission between a wise grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) who passes on strong values and a father (Jeremy Strong) who does what he can to improve a sometimes difficult father-son relationship under the eyes of Esther (Anne Hathaway), a mother-courage who is sometimes overwhelmed by her son, whose teachers don’t see his artistic passion and believe him to be “slow”.
Can we deny the American dream?
The post-war boom, the dawn of a new era for America, suggests that in America, a good seat at the banquet of life awaits everyone, and that everyone has a chance to reap the fruits of hard work. The American dream is offered as an inheritance to Paul by everyone around him. But the artist in him resents this system which respects money more than people and which promises a smaller share to African-Americain, like Johnny’s life seems to show. He feels that he will have to struggle to find another way: his own way, to become a mensch.
After exploring the Amazon in The Lost City of Z and the cosmos in Ad Astra, James Gray wistfully asks the question: can we deny the American dream and survive in the ruthless world of capitalism?
The Red Carpet of Three Thousand Years of Longing
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