CANNES, France, May 23, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - A literal bus-load of Hollywood A-listers arrived in Cannes on Tuesday, including Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks, for the premiere of Wes Anderson's strange blend of sci-fi and 1950s Westerns, "Asteroid City".
The typically quirky movie is set in a remote desert town where a group of child geniuses gather for a science competition that is interrupted by an alien visitor.
It required a full-sized coach to bring the star-packed cast to the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, including Hanks, Johansson, Steve Carell and Adrien Brody, to name just a few.
Anderson told AFP he wrote "Asteroid City" during the Covid-19 lockdown, saying it was about "reckoning with forces beyond your control".
As usual with his films, it divided critics between those who love his obsessively stylised oddness and those who find it all too much.
There is "a madness to his method", wrote Vulture, and that is what makes him "a great artist".
But Deadline concluded that "general audiences, as opposed to art film aficionados, will be baffled as to what's going on".
The Cannes Film Festival has had a relentless stream of glitzy premieres since kicking off last week, including the new Indiana Jones and Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon" with Leonardo DiCaprio.
- 'Sordid male fantasy' -
There was a shot of scandal with a sneak peek at "The Idol", the new HBO show starring Lily-Rose Depp and Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye.
Due for release in June, it gives a nod to Britney Spears and the toxic fame that engulfed some '90s pop stars, but has been plagued by rumours about onset turmoil and graphic sex scenes.
But Depp told reporters Tuesday that the accusations were "not reflective at all of my experience shooting the show", adding that "the bareness of the character physically mirrors the bareness we get to see emotionally".
Depp's father, Johnny Depp, also caused an uproar with his appearance at the festival last week in his so-called "comeback" film, "Jeanne du Barry", playing French King Louis XV.
In "The Idol", she plays a pop star struggling to get back on track after a breakdown when she meets a manipulative cult leader played by Tesfaye.
While Depp's performance was praised as "riveting", many critics felt the copious sex scenes -- including nudity, kinky masturbation and graphic talk -- went too far.
Variety slammed its "tawdry cliches" and said the show "plays like a sordid male fantasy".
"We know we are making a show that is provocative, it's not lost on us," director Sam Levinson, who also created "Euphoria", told journalists.
- Palme race -
Meanwhile, the competition for the main prize at Cannes, the Palme d'Or, is heating up.
Jude Law has awed and disgusted cinemagoers with his portrayal of King Henry VIII in "Firebrand".
"The Zone of Interest", a unique and horrifying look at the private life of a Nazi officer working at the Auschwitz concentration camp, has been lavished with praise.
There was also a lot of love for Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore's "May December", which looks at the relationship between an older woman and a schoolboy, still married years after their relationship became a tabloid scandal.
A twisty courtroom drama about a woman accused of her husband's murder, "Anatomy of a Fall", is also seen as a front-runner.
There are still movies to come, including from past winners Ken Loach and Wim Wenders, ahead of the awards ceremony on Saturday.