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Cannes 2019 got off a rough start Tuesday night with the opening of “The Dead Don’t Die.”

Most certainly not an opener in a good year, the Jim Jarmusch zombie movie got mixed to poor reviews. It stars Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton, who apparently has to decapitate a lot of zombies. Steve Buscemi is in it wearing a faux red MAGA hat.

Todd McCarthy wrote: “At times, the deadpan of Murray and Driver becomes, well, a bit deadening, and true wit is in short supply, even though the film remains amusing most of the way…It’s a minor, but most edible, bloody bonbon.”

Owen Gleiberman in Variety called it “a disappointing trifle.” His thoughts: “The trouble with “The Dead Don’t Die” is that the notion of treating a zombie uprising as a pitch-black comedy drenched in attitude has already been done to death. It goes back to “Shaun of the Dead,” to films like “Planet Terror” and “Re-Animator” — and, of course, to “Dawn of the Dead” itself, which laced its grisly spectacle with a ripe satire of the consumer culture.”

It does seem that Jarmusch — who has some brilliant films like “Broken Flowers” and “Paterson,” among others — has phoned this one in. The Broadway producers of “Burn This” won’t be happy. They rearranged their whole schedule so star Adam Driver could attend last night. Driver will be back at the Hudson Theater at 2pm Wednesday for the matinee, and later at 8pm for the evening show. Exhausting!

The trade magazines’ various writers are all posting various negative comments on Twitter and in columns. It’s perhaps dawning on them that this year’s Cannes isn’t in good shape. The next movie they can sink their teeth into is on Thursday. That’s Elton John’s “Rocketman.” Then there’s a long wait until Tuesday and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood.”

That’s it if you’re an American journalist this year. Terence Malick’s movie has an all-German cast. No one in the US cares about a Ken Loach movie. A few smaller films will be of interest to a narrow audience. It’s slim pickings this year.

I worry about Cannes because it’s a great festival. But losing Harvey Weinstein was a blow. He usually provided three parties, premieres, a lot of buzz and pizzazz that you could feel resonating on the Croisette. No one cares about amFAR, as I’ve written, it’s a scam, basically. And there will be a severe lack of celebs this year by next Thursday.  Plus, Paul Allen is sadly gone, and with him, his mega party on his world’s largest yacht. Paul was a great philanthropist and he knew how to throw a shindig.

Cannes is also lacking imagination on the part of the filmmakers and studios. Remember when we all got invites from the government of Kazakhstan to view “Borat”? Or when Jerry Seinfeld and Jeffrey Katzenberg ziplined from the Carlton across the Croisette down to the beach dressed as Bees? It’s all just business now. Blech. Where’s the fistfight, the robbery, the kidnapping?

Alas, Cannes will have to allow Netflix, Amazon and other platforms into next year’s festival. This has to be the last year of pretending it’s 1955 on the Cote d’Azur, as much fun as that is sometimes!

 

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