Fiachra GIBBONS –
Women are the kick-ass heroes of a new wave of films at the Cannes film festival, where Hollywood’s #MeToo moment may have just spawned its first big budget all-female blockbuster.
Jessica Chastain caused a stir on Thursday by revealing a dream team cast of female talent including Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Lupita Nyong’o of “Black Panther” fame and Fan Bingbing for her new $75 million Bond-style caper called “355”.
The “Interstellar” and “Zero Dark Thirty” star said she came up with the idea after serving on the Cannes jury last year where she found the depiction of women in the line-up “quite disturbing”. With little or no female-led action films in Cannes’ more commercial market, she decided to do something about it.
The top secret project leaked out when the A-listers were spotted meeting potential backers in a five-star Cannes hotel.
Chastain quickly went public, tweeting: “Top secret no more. Mission accepted”. And she walked out in style with her co-stars to promote the project.
“I love ‘Jason Bourne’, the Bond films and ‘Mission Impossible’, and I asked myself why apart from ‘Charlie’s Angels’, there has never been a female spy movie like that,” she said.
While fellow Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett and Kristen Stewart — who lead this year’s majority female jury — have been preaching empowerment at Cannes, other women are doing it for themselves in a series of new movies at the festival.
They go from an Icelandic eco-warrior outrunning the island’s army to Kurdish women fighters battling the IS.
“Girls of the Sun”, with Iranian star Golshifteh Farahani heading a brigade of Yazidi women out for revenge on extremists, is only one of a number of oestrogen-fuelled films where women go well beyond the cinematic stereotypes.
Another contender in the running for the Palme d’Or top prize — Jia Zhangke’s “Ash is the Purest White” — has a young dancer pick up a pistol to defend her man from rival Chinese mobsters.
And among the festival’s most praised films so far is “One Day”, which follows a Hungarian working mother through a gruelling 36 hours as she tries to juggle her job with the demands of her three children and a husband who may be about to stray.
The Hollywood Reporter raved about how it makes “painfully visible how much self-effacing effort goes into… the least appreciated job on the planet: being a mother.
“No one thanks her but everyone expects her to remember and do a million little things every day,” it added.
Oscar-nominated “Drive” star Carey Mulligan said up to now women have been reduced to playing eye-candy in action films.
“You end up always playing the wife of the guy that is saving the world, which is not very interesting,” she told a Women in Motion talk at the festival.
But some conventionally conceived action films — rarely beacons of enlightened thinking — seem to be getting the message.
The “Star Wars” spin-off “Solo” — which is also being launched at Cannes — has British actress Emilia Clarke, the “Mother of Dragons” Daenerys Stormborn in “Game of Thrones” as a shapeshifting smuggler “with her own journey”.
Qi’ra’s story is “definitely one of survival and strength. The way that I felt about her was this girl has got a core of steel,” Clarke said. — AFP