It’s nearly time for the Cannes Film Festival to release the titles for this year’s edition and the 76th one overall. So are there any upcoming movies cinephiles may bet on as a sure thing on the Croisette this year? Outside of Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s “Monster,” not really. But Variety reports that HBO eyes the festival for the premiere of its already controversial upcoming series “The Idol.” A TV series debut at Cannes? What’s the world come to?
To be fair, several series have gotten the Cannes red carpet treatment at the festival in recent years, including David Lynch‘s “Twin Peaks: The Return,” arguably the best TV show of the past decade, and Jane Campion‘s “Top Of The Lake: China Girl” in 2017. But those are TV shows helmed by cinematic giants. Is Sam Levinson a cinematic giant? Anyone who’s seen “Malcolm & Marie” knows the answer to that, but “Euphoria” remains as buzzy as ever, and “The Idol” is already creating waves of its own.
That’s mainly due to Levinson’s creative overhaul of the series last spring after Amy Seimetz exited “The Idol.” Seimetz left last April after directing several episodes, with the show undergoing drastic story and casting changes before it resumed production in May. Lily Rose-Depp and Abel Tesfaye (aka: pop superstar The Weeknd) remain the series leads, but it may be a very different story than initially intended under Levinson’s direction.
“The Idol” originally centered on Depp’s popstar who, looking to return to the limelight after a nervous breakdown, falls under the influence of Tesfaye’s culty and predatory industry guru. However, with Levinson at the helm, the show now focuses less on dark satire and more on a heavily sexualized love story. And as Rolling Stone tells it, the show “has gone wildly, disgustingly off the rails.” Levinson’s reshoots apparently border on torture porn, with lots of scenes including nudity, graphic sexual imagery, and intense violence against women. So much for a show about a young woman fighting to reclaim her agency. Or maybe Levinson wants to accentuate that story’s most explicit and histrionic aspects, ala “Euphoria.”
Either way, Tesfaye and Depp stand by Levinson’s vision for the series. Tesfaye clapped back at Rolling Stone on social media, posting a clip from the show that sees his character persuade Depp’s Jocelyn to reject a RS profile. “Rolling Stone? Aren’t they a little irrelevant?” says Tesfaye’s guru. As for Depp, she told Variety that “Sam is, for so many reasons, the best director I have ever worked with. Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input, and opinions more valued. Working with Sam is a true collaboration in every way — it matters to him, more than anything, not only what his actors think about the work, but how we feel performing it. He hires people whose work he esteems and has always created an environment in which I felt seen, heard, and appreciated.”
So, whatever “The Idol” ends up being after its “shitshow” production, Depp, Tesfaye, and Levinson sound confident about their series. But is it worthy of a Cannes premiere? At this point, who knows? HBO’s three teasers for the series barely give anything away, and the show doesn’t even have an official release date yet. But HBO did bring “Irma Vep” to the Croisette last year, so maybe they have an in? Sam Levinson isn’t Olivier Assayas, though, and The Weeknd’s status as a music superstar doesn’t have the same cache in the film world. Still, if “The Idol” ends up a brilliant, excessive trash fire of a TV series, maybe the biggest film festival in the world is the best place to show it off…