Todd Haynes returned to the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night with his latest, May December, playing in competition. The complex melodrama starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore scored an eight-minute standing ovation inside the Grand Theatre Lumière.
The screening started late after an almost 40-minute delay due to the late start of the movie that premiered before Haynes’, that being Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. It was a bit of a tired crowd that finally entered the venue to see Haynes’ latest.
The enthusiastic response in Cannes’ biggest venue was at least matched by a simultaneous press screening at the adjacent Debussy Theatre, where there was huge applause — a rare feat for the press core here.
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Said Haynes in addressing the Lumière audience while standing between Portman and Moore: “The making of this film was such a joy…we shot it in 23 days in Savannah — it took everybody’s full cooperation to make this possible.”
In May December, Haynes tells the story of two women at two stages of their lives. A painful turn to the past for the older star in her sixties, who wants to turn the page, faced with a sincere and dangerous search for the truth from a Hollywood star at the top of her career. Between the two, the male character of Joe (Charles Melton) subtly weaves threads between the actresses and the eras.
Samy Burch wrote the screenplay, from a story by Burch and Alex Mechanik. Jessica Elbaum and Will Ferrell of Gloria Sanchez Productions and Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler of Killer Films are producing alongside Portman and Sophie Mas under their MountainA banner. Grant S. Johnson and Tyler W. Konney are producing and fully financing through their respective companies Project Infinity and Taylor and Dodge.
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Haynes is a Cannes regular. His last movie here was 2021’s Velvet Underground, which screened out of competition, and was preceded by such competition entries as 2017’s Wonderstruck, 2015’s Carol and 1998’s Velvet Goldmine. Carol notably scored the Best Actress prize in Cannes for Rooney Mara. She was later nominated for an Oscar, as was lead Cate Blanchett.
Zac Ntim contributed to this report.