Meryl Streep poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and the premiere of the film "The Second Act" during the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Source: Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

2024 Cannes Dispatch Day 1: The Festival Opens with Tributes to Meryl Streep and French Meta Comedy

Matthew Creith READ TIME: 4 MIN.

The 77th Cannes Film Festival kicked off its opening ceremonies and presented the first movie to start 10 days of cinematic delights. As this is my first time traveling to the French Riviera to witness the most prestigious film festival in the world, I journeyed halfway around the globe to see what all the fuss was about.

Boy, was there fuss!

The Cannes Film Festival is famous for its impressive lineup of international content, some of which goes on to be recognized at the Academy Awards. The films premiering here often gain buzz from journalists and film critics alike, gaining recognition for filmmakers looking to create a name for themselves on the international stage. Last year's standouts included "The Zone of Interest" and "Anatomy of a Fall," the latter of which won the coveted Palme d'Or and competed for the Queer Palm.

This year opened with a bang as director Greta Gerwig began her reign as Jury President for the main competition. In a sometimes overdrawn yet wonderful opening ceremony, Gerwig and fellow jury members Lily Gladstone, director J.A. Bayona, and others were introduced to a tuxedo-clad audience in the Grand Théâtre Lumière by French actor Camille Cottin. A reel showcasing Gerwig's accomplishments as an actor in films like "Greenberg" and "Frances Ha" transitioned into a full-blown tribute to her work as the director of "Lady Bird," "Little Women," and "Barbie."

After Gerwig accepted her place in Cannes glory, it was time for French actor Juliette Binoche to present Meryl Streep with the Honorary Palme d'Or. A range of clips played of the actor's undeniably iconic performances set to the tune of the "Mama Mia" hit, "The Winner Takes It All." When Streep finally took the stage to accept her award, she exclaimed how nice it was that audiences hadn't gotten tired of her face yet, thanked her agent and longtime makeup artist, and declared the Cannes Film Festival officially open.

Director Quentin Dupieux, from left, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel, Lea Seydoux, and Manuel Guillot pose for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and the premiere of the film "The Second Act" during the 77th international film festiv
Source: Photo by Daniel Cole/Invision/AP

When the ceremony concluded, it was show time. The movie that opened the festival was "The Second Act," a French meta-comedy written and directed by Quentin Dupieux. The film stars Léa Seydoux ("Blue is the Warmest Color," "Dune: Part 2") as one of four actors (Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel, and Raphaël Quenard) who are tasked with making a movie produced, written, and directed by artificial intelligence. A commentary on the modern filmmaking experience, the film within the movie is supposed to be about Seydoux's character introducing her bisexual boyfriend to her father.

However, the comedic endeavor goes off the rails quickly as we, the audience, figure out that the actors we are watching in a movie break the fourth wall often, talking directly to the camera and each other about how awful the movie within the movie is and remarking on each other's failures as performers. It's seriously funny at times, downright weird, and not as creative as Dupieux hopes it would be, yet oddly tight for an 80-minute film.

Several characters come out as gay or bisexual, which doesn't move the plot further and distracts to the point that jokes about sexuality don't land well. What sticks the landing is Manuel Guillot's performance as an extra who is supposed to carry a tray of drinks at a bar and deliver one line of dialogue. Guillot's character is extremely nervous and fumbles everything from wine pouring to sweating over his one line. He is masterful and achieves some of the funniest moments in a film striving for all funny moments.

As with many film festivals of Cannes' stature, the length of audience applause during the end credits matters just as much as the critiques storming the internet on social media. "The Second Act" didn't receive much applause, so it's unlikely American audiences will get the chance to see it anytime soon. However, the film boasts a Netflix logo, which might have been more in jest than actual distribution rights... a funny and ultimately confusing opening film to the festival, to say the least.

by Matthew Creith

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