Hollywood is often accused of “eating itself” — forever recycling its back catalogue with endless remakes and sequels.
But this year’s Cannes film festival is witnessing another kind of creative cannibalism. Characters in six much talked about films are literally eating each other.
Two films in the running for its top prize the Palme d’Or feature the ultimate taboo, with the back-biting of the Los Angeles celebrity and supermodel scene turning into a human banquet in Nicolas Winding Refn’s horror flick “The Neon Demon”.
French cinema’s most fragrant star, Juliette Binoche, narrowly escapes being served up on a brioche in the other — Bruno Dumont’s period drama “Slack Bay” in which a family of impoverished ferrymen feast on wealthy tourists.
Even children’s films are getting in on the act, with the tiny eponymous animated heroes of “The Trolls” — which Hollywood studio DreamWorks’ previewed on the Croisette last week — living in constant dread of being gobbled up by their flesh-eating cousins the Bergens.
Is it any wonder their hair stands on end, one journalist quipped.
Steven Spielberg, however, has drawn the line on carnality in his adaptation of the Big Friendly Giant. The children-eating giants of Roald Dahl’s classic book “The BFG” were too much for the legendary director to swallow.
– Cruelest cuts –
His film, which also premiered at Cannes, cuts out all the cannibalism and instead has the plucky orphan Sophie being swallowed whole in a dream sequence by the hungry giant Fleshlumpeater.
Nor are vegetarians immune from the trend.
“Raw”, the big hit of the Critic’s Week section, has a veggie veterinary student developing an unexpected taste for human blood in the face of her bullying classmates.
The film, produced by French President Francois Hollande’s actress partner Julie Gayet, had leading British critic Jonathan Romney predicting that “genre buffs will gobble it up” and insisting that “this prime cut should be the plat du jour” on cinema menus worldwide.
Others drooled over its young star Garance Marillier’s “ferociously uninhibited performance”, while the highly-rated Korean film “Train to Busan” by Yeon Sang-Ho adds a zombie element to the stew.
Many, however, have divined a deeper political significance in the spate of films, particularly in Dumont’s “Slack Bay” which seems to adopt the anarchist maxim “Eat the rich” with gusto.
Dumont told AFP that he did not set out specifically to make a political satire.
“I wanted to go beyond the mask, something that was magnified, that was very social that would purge us,” he said.
– ‘Rich eating poor’ –
But his producer Jean Brehat made no bones about the link — saying for him the film was a metaphor for the widening wealth gap.
“It’s obvious to anyone that we live in a world where the rich are richer and the poor are poorer. Even if it’s unconscious, it’s a reflection of the world we live in,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.
“The rich are eating the poor more and more.”
The producer of “Raw”, Jean des Forets, said there was clearly a symbolic link between cannibalism and unrestrained capitalism.
“I think you could make some sort of social-political reading of this trend … linked to people getting rich while others are getting poor,” he told reporters.
Vampires have been ever-present at Cannes for several years, and this year the best of them is US director Michael O’Shea’s “Transfiguration” whose blood-sucking hero is a young black New York orphan.
“Cannes seems to be much more interested in horror film these last few years,” said Jean Marigny, the French author of “Vampires: From Legend to Modern Myth”.
In stark contrast to its downmarket roots, “the genre has been attracting more of the best directors like Jim Jarmusch with ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’,” he said.