Cannes Film Festival 2023: “Asteroid City” by Wes Anderson, in competition, rout to exasperation

“The important thing is not to understand but that it is beautiful”, said Godard. All right. If Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotell) has accustomed us to the most twisted scenarios in stylized stagings with five-star castings, he pushes the cork a little far in Asteroid City who is vying for the Palme d’Or.

So far, so good

In 1955, Asteroid City, a tiny boom town in the middle of a desert in the southwestern United States, is famous for its gigantic meteorite crater. For a weekend, five gifted children are invited to present their inventions, while many other people cross paths in the greatest confusion. When a spaceship arrives with an alien who steals the remains of the antediluvian meteor, all these beautiful people are quarantined.

Wes Anderson sets the scene starting from a theater scene where the author of the play launches the story in several acts. From black and white and square image format, we move on to color and the usual graphic style of the director, against a backdrop of country music that will hardly ever leave the film. So far, so good. When the many protagonists arrive, the action becomes more and more confused and deliberately incoherent, between zaniness and exasperation.


If we can consider nonsense as one of the Fine Arts, that ofAsteroid City can irritate. Wes Anderson plays with this narrative provocation to shake up conventions and the spectators who expect the many stars of the film to make them dream. But they risk having a nightmare by undergoing what one of the characters in the film repeats at leisure: “I still don’t understand the play”.

If one can like this subtle genre, it also has its limits, and borders here on navel-gazing, even the cynicism of a divisive self. We will recognize the sophisticated and shimmering imagery ofAsteroid City, nostalgic and cartoonish of the golden age of the American 50s. The glamor of the cast and the quirky humor that runs through it are just as charming. But the film risks provoking what an irritated spectator launched at the end of the screening: “I’m never going to see a Wes Anderson movie again”.

The poster of "Asteroid City" by Wes Anderson (2023).  (UNIVERSAL PICTURES INTERNATIONAL FRANCE)

The sheet

Gender : Comedy
Director: Wes Anderson
Actors: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Adrian Brody, Margot Robbie, Ruper Friend, Matt Dillon
Duration : 1h45
Exit : June 21, 2023
Distributer : Universal Pictures International France

Summary: Asteroid City is a tiny city in the middle of the desert in the southwestern United States. The year is 1955. The site is most famous for its gigantic meteorite crater and its nearby astronomical observatory. This weekend, the military and astronomers welcome five gifted children, distinguished for their scientific creations, so that they present their inventions. A few kilometers away, beyond the hills, we see atomic mushrooms caused by nuclear tests.

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