The polite applause at the end of the press screening of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom was in keeping with the subdued opening to this year's Cannes. In spite of the controversy about the lack of women film-makers in the programme and the usual publicity stunts, this has been a surprisingly muted festival. Anderson's new film – like every other Wes Anderson film before it – is mannered in the extreme.
The self-conscious camera work, deadpan performance style, random use of music (everything from Hank Williams to Benjamin Britten) and bizarre colour scheme are just what we expect from the director of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Early on, the film seems grating and whimsical.But slowly we begin to care about Anderson's typically oddball protagonists. By the final reel, the film is surprisingly moving.
The setting is a little island in New England that is full of Boy Scouts. It's 1965. Bespectacled Sammy Shakusky (Jared Gilman), has gone Awol. His colleagues are determined to get him back. They're little fascists in khaki (or "beige lunatics" as Bill Murray calls them) and they don't care at all for Sammy. Nor do his foster parents. The only person who roots for the truculent and lonely boy is Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), daughter of a pair of unhappily married islanders (played by Murray and Frances McDormand).
Anderson, who co-scripted with Roman Coppola, throws in Last of the Mohicans-style sequences showing Sammy in the wilds. He's adept with his knife and knows how to manoeuvre a canoe. Eventually, Sammy and Suzy elope. At times, the characters here behave in as expressionless a way as the animated protagonists of his last feature, Fantastic Mr Fox. However, Anderson depicts the burgeoning romance between Sammy and Suzy with delicacy and humour. The performances from the adults also gradually begin to register more strongly. Bruce Willis brings pathos and an unlikely dignity to his role as the harassed town sheriff. Tilda Swinton is the woman from the social services who thinks the best thing for Sammy is a bit of shock treatment. As the film progresses, Anderson adds vigour to the storytelling, throwing in spirited fights and chase sequences.
Wes Anderson aficionados are bound to warm to Moonrise Kingdom. Non-fans may take more persuading, but should enjoy themselves in the end.
Follow that camel: Chaos on the Croisette
The insouciance of the French slipped yesterday as a stunt by Sacha Baron Cohen involving a camel caused chaos in Cannes.
The comedian strolled out of a luxury hotel to promote his new film The Dictator dressed as Admiral General Aladeen, with a camel in tow. He briefly mounted the beast, nearly fell off and then led it on foot along the Croisette.
The mood threatened to turn nasty as photographers and tourists jostled with bodyguards, leaving police exasperated and a mile-long traffic jam.