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Cannes: ‘Wonderstruck’ Director Todd Haynes Says Amazon ‘Loves Cinema’

Variety logo Variety 5/18/2017 Stewart Clarke
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Wonderstruck” director Todd Haynes leaped to the defense of Amazon in Cannes on Thursday, saying that the streaming service was as interested in the big-screen movie experience as he and his filmmaking counterparts.

Asked about the debate over Netflix’s role at Cannes, Haynes quickly deflected the conversation to Amazon, which backed his Cannes competition entry “Wonderstruck” alongside Roadside Attractions.

“The film division at Amazon is made up of true cineastes who love movies and really want to try and provide opportunity for independent film visions to find their footing in a vastly shifting market,” Haynes told reporters at the press conference for his competition entry. “They love cinema.”

With Netflix’s approach to theatrical releases unclear, Haynes said Amazon is behind the vision for films such as “Wonderstruck,” which are meant for theaters. “This was always about the experience of seeing something on the big screen, and I think that’s something Amazon is as committed to as we are,” Haynes said.

His robust defense of Amazon came a day after Will Smith and Pedro Almodovar, members of the Cannes jury, clashed over Netflix at the festival’s opening-day news conference.

Not everyone was so supportive of Amazon at Thursday morning’s press screening of “Wonderstruck.” A loud but isolated groan could be heard when Amazon Studios’ credit came up on screen, though the moviegoer’s objection wasn’t clear.

Two of the movie’s three child actors attended the news conference, including deaf newcomer Millicent Simmonds, who signed an emotional tribute to Haynes and the team, and Jaden Michael, who fought back tears when talking about the experience of making the movie.

Star Julianne Moore spoke about working with Haynes for the fourth time. “He’s much meaner,” she joked, then added: “You don’t have to do anything in Todd’s movies — he’s done it all for you. He’s set it up technically, cinematically, linguistically; all you have to do is enter the world.”

Haynes repaid the compliment. “She understood this almost unimaginable character on the page and brought a dimension to it I was still feeling out, a specificity and clarity, and made the film work,” he said.

“Wonderstruck,” Haynes’ seventh feature, is based upon a 2011 Brian Selznick illustrated children’s book. Selznick penned the screenplay.

It is a “double period” film that follows two young protagonists in 1920s and 1970s New York and Minnesota as an interlinked mystery unfolds. The black-and-white 1920s sections are dialogue-free and contrast with full-color sections in Minnesota and New York, which plays host to the film’s climax.

Early reviews were mixed. “It may gently push the buttons of more than a few moviegoers, but it’s an ambitious doohickey impersonating a work of art,” Variety chief critic Owen Gleiberman said.

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