Luc Besson let the dogs out in Venice Thursday night, premiering his potential comeback vehicle, Dogman. Besson and the cast were showered with howls of approval from the audience.
The cast, including lead Caleb Landry Jones, Jojo T Gibbs and Clemens Schick, were visibly moved by the response to the film, with the audience rising to their feet for a good six minutes. Jones stood up, undid his braid and shook his hair out, before taking off his bow tie, looking relieved. Besson embraced his cast before returning to his seat, wiping away tears.
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Besson’s 21st feature, which sold widely ahead of its Venice debut, is being closely watched as a possible return to directorial form for the maker of Lucy and The Fifth Element. The past half-decade has been a tumultuous period for both Besson’s business and reputation, following the flop of his mega-budget sci-fi Valerian (2017), the implosion of his French studio EuropaCorp, and a #MeToo scandal involving accusations of rape and sexual assault.
Caleb Landry Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) stars in the film as the eponymous Dogman, who was severely abused as a child but survived thanks to his preternatural affinity with canines. When the character is taken in by police after a violent incident, Jones’ character gets a psychiatric assessment from prison psychiatrist Evelyn (Past Lives actress Jojo T. Gibbs) and tells her his life story. The film is set in New Jersey, but it was primarily shot in a studio in France.
If this were Cannes, Besson’s latest would be a shoo-in for the Palm Dog, canine cinema’s highest honor. As it is, the director will have to make do with the audience’s warm embrace of his fidos on the Lido.
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