Cannes 2024 Short Take: Megalopolis is an Epic, Exhausting Fever Dream

Francis Ford Coppola's passion project is in the main competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes 2024 Short Take: Megalopolis is an Epic and Exhausting Fever Dream
Cannes 2024 Short Take: Megalopolis is an Epic and Exhausting Fever Dream

The thing to understand about Megalopolis is that it’s unlike any film you’ve ever seen. At one point in the screening at Cannes Film Festival, the lights went on. A man with a mic walked in front of the screen. He then posed a question to a character in the film who answered on-screen. Why was this done? I have no idea. Will it have to be done at every single screen when the film is released? Who can say. Megalopolis is bursting with these WTF moments. It’s also bursting with ideas, audacity, ambition, history, lines taken from Shakespeare, Ovid, H. G. Wells, and just about anything else that you can imagine – including Shia LaBeouf, who plays an agent of mischief declaring, ‘Revenge tastes best when you’re wearing a dress,’ while he’s actually wearing a dress.

Megalopolis, which has been in the making for forty years, is about New Rome, which is basically New York rebranded. Adam Driver plays Catilina, a brilliant artist-architect who can stop time. He is pulling down city blocks to build a city of the future with a material called Megalon. His nemesis is the mayor of the city who once prosecuted him unsuccessfully for the murder of his wife. But in a twist straight out of Bollywood, the mayor’s daughter falls in love with Catilina. There are also several other characters upping the stakes for power and glory.

The film, which runs for two hours and eighteen minutes, is bloated, baffling, in stretches, boring, but it also has the majesty and madness of a legendary director playing for broke. It’s been written, directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, who has self-financed it to the tune of 120 million dollars. Megalopolis plays out like an epic, expensive, exhausting fever dream. The director and the film’s refusal to play by any rules is also inspiring. I can’t tell you that I enjoyed this film. But I’m so glad I experienced it.

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