‘Rumours’ Review: Guy Maddin’s Smart, Sharp & Quirky Satire Hits The Bullseye For Those Who Have The Giant Brain For It – Cannes Film Festival

‘Rumours’ Review: Guy Maddin’s Smart, Sharp & Quirky Satire Hits The Bullseye For Those Who Have The Giant Brain For It – Cannes Film Festival

Remember the communiqué from the Rambouillet G7 conference back in 1975? Of course they do. Tramping through a wooded estate somewhere in Germany, pursued by the zombie remains of Iron Age chieftains recently exhumed from the grounds of the nearby stately home, the leaders of the world’s richest democracies recite it by heart. What could be more stirring than a well-rounded public announcement that sounds grand, but doesn’t commit anyone to doing anything? A successful joint statement is a work of art.

These leaders – the chancellor of Germany (Cate Blanchett), the prime ministers of the UK, Japan and Canada (Niki Amuka-Bird, Takehiro Hiro and Roy Dupuis), and the presidents of the United States, Italy and France (Charles Dance, Rolando Ravello and Denis Ménochet) – clearly think they are masters of that art in Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson’s Rumours. Surges of orchestral music as they wave in front of a rippling sea of national flags emphasize their importance. Over a working dinner in a subtly lit gazebo near the grave dig — where they have already had a splendid photo opportunity, each leader holding his or her own shovel — they are working on a compendious communiqué of their own. The first sign of a coming apocalypse, if that is indeed what is happening, is the failure of the waiters to refill their wine glasses.

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Smart, sharp and quirky, Rumours is a more explicitly satirical work that we have come to expect from Canadian director Maddin, the outlier indie who has single-handedly put Winnipeg on the cinematic map. Sylvain, the French president, suggests that each of them embodies certain national characteristics that they could invoke in the document, comparing their negotiations to marriage counseling. He delivers this homily while sitting in a wheelbarrow, being pushed by Cardosa, the British PM — who is determined that work should go on, even as they flee the deserted mansion — after breaking his leg in a fight with a bog man.

Hilde, the German chancellor, is trying to maintain her position as official hostess, but it is the Canadian PM Maxime who becomes scout leader, prodding a giant brain when nobody else dares and volunteering to swim across a river to retrieve a raft that may take them to safety, presumably stirred by a trace memory of forging into the frontier. The American, Edison, who likes to remind everyone he is in charge of “the world’s oldest democracy,” is also inclined to fall asleep mid-sentence. His nonsensical dream-fueled mumblings, faithfully transcribed by Antonio, the Italian PM, will eventually be incorporated into their communiqué.

Maddin shoots the misty woods and his parade of world leaders making their way through the dark as if he were telling a fairy tale; when Maxime, on one of his lone forays into enemy territory, discovers Célestine (Alicia Vikander), the president of the European Union, sitting in a pool of moonlight going through her notes and babbling in Swedish about the dawn of a new era (introduced by the giant brain rather than any miracle of unification wrought by Brussels), it is as if he is meeting a forest fairy. Sometime in the past, Maxime had a tumultuous love affair with Célestine. Maxime seems to have tumultuous episodes with every woman in politics. Even Hilde is driven to seduce him with some sexy talk about encouraging the private sector.


Eccentric as they are, all these characters feel known and familiar, in the way that we might feel we know the real-life politicians constantly in the news, by the time they end up back at the mansion. Antonio is handing out smoked meats filched from the lunch buffet from a store in his pocket. Maxime is still weeping over his numerous lost loves. They have been summoned by a call from an AI bot posing as a lost child – a roving device designed to trap pedophiles, but effectively trapping them too given that they can’t desert a child – and raiding their G7 conference souvenir bags for snacks and space blankets.

Rumours is thick with these kinds of jokes. Anyone with a fascination for political process and the idiocies of bureaucracy will find one joke after another hitting the bullseye. For anyone else, it is mild fun at best: this is a film that, despite its general amiability, seems to divide audiences. But then, only a certain kind of person gets a kick out of the Treaty of Maastricht.

Title: Rumours
Festival: Cannes (Competition)
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Directors: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson
Screenwriter: Evan Johnson
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Roy Dupuis, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Charles Dance, Takehiro Hira, Denis Ménochet, Rolando Ravello, Zlatko Buric, Alicia Vikander
Sales agent: Protagonist Pictures
Running time: 1hr 58 min

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