‘Megalopolis’ Confounds Cannes Audience as Laughter Drowns Out Cringey Dialogue

Is it a film? Is it a manifesto?  What is “Megalopolis,” Francis Ford Coppola’s new Magnum Opus which debuted in Cannes on Thursday?

It’s kinda Batman, kinda Gladiator, kinda “Tomorrowland” rolled up in a smorgasbord of ideas and images and the Cannes audience didn’t know what to do with it.

At the press screening in a packed theater in Debussy, there were several times the audience laughed at what was happening on the screen. Meaning — in mockery.

A mishmash of religious celebrations, marked by a Koran, Hanukkah candles and a Christmas tree, along with sequential shots of happy children, led to an outburst of laughter, as did one line when Nathalie Emmanuel, playing Cesar’s wife, announced she’s pregnant. “If it’s a girl, her name will be Hope Sunny, “ she said. “If it’s a boy he’ll be named Francis.”

Loud laughter. The Cannes audience wasn’t taking any prisoners.

Reporters and critics who were taking copious notes around me kind of gave up halfway through the movie. Playing a rising visionary who wants to build a city of the future named Megalopolis, Adam Driver as Cesar Catalina had some of the cringiest lines.

“Time, show me the future,” he grandly declares at one point. Then in the midst of the film a real life person comes on stage, inside the theater, to ask a question of Driver/Catalina during his speech.

It was experimental certainly, but added to the confusion. What was the point?

In this 21st century movie somehow people were still smoking cigarettes, and photographers were using 1940s-style flashes on top of their cameras, while the “press corps” all had hats on with their press badges tucked in like “His Girl Friday.”

That too was pretty disorienting.

By the time the credits rolled after a very on-the-nose, closing shot of a beautiful baby (emphasizing the future — we definitely got the point) the audience had enough. A couple of loud boos rang out, along with some very tepid applause and mostly silence.

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