George Miller electrified the Cannes Film Festival with “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” his first directorial effort since “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Miller’s latest, starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, earned a six-minute standing ovation after its world premiere at Cannes’ Palais theater.
A love letter to storytelling and its tropes and parables passed down through history, “Three Thousand Years” follows a solitary academic (Swinton) and a burdened genie (Elba) she finds in a bottle in the markets of Istanbul. His history unfolds in the stories of those who had found him before.
While his memories were relayed in dazzling ancient locations with heavy special effects, half of the film is spent in a hotel room (the same that Agatha Christie lived in when she wrote “Murder on the Orient Express,” a bellhop tells Swinton). The Cannes crowd enjoyed Swinton and Elba hanging out in bathrobes, casually bickering over the ethics of wish making — until the movie eventually gives way to a bittersweet love story.
Elba and Swinton shared a warm hug during the post-screening standing ovation, which had the Grand Palais audience swooning and whistling. Miller, in his trademark coke bottle glasses, looked on with pride.
“This is the first time I’ve seen the film with an audience, and it’s very moving,” Miller told the crowd. “I’m very, very grateful.”
The film is predominantly a two-hander between Swinton and Ilba, although supporting roles are played by the likes of Aamito Lagum, Burcu Gölgedar and Matteo Bocelli.
Miller co-wrote the movie with Augusta Gore, based on “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,” a collection of short stories published by author A. S. Byatt. Miller reunited several members of his “Mad Max: Fury Road” crafts team for the new movie, including editor Margaret Sixel, cinematographer John Seale and composer Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL).
“Three Thousand Years of Longing” brought Miller back to Cannes after last attending the festival with “Mad Max: Fury Road.” That 2015 post-apocalyptic action movie debuted out of competition shortly before opening in theaters and grossing $374 million worldwide. “Fury Road” was nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture and best director, and it won six awards. “Three Thousand Years of Longing” premiered out of competition at Cannes.
MGM’s distribution arm United Artists Releasing is set to release “Three Thousand Years of Longing” in theaters August 31.