Three Thousand Years of Longing Review – Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in Mad Max: Fairy Overload | Cannes 2022

gcast a magical wish to Mad Max fans and they’d conjure up a new George Miller movie, here and now, not a moment to waste. It’s probably what they’ve wanted ever since Fury Road sank into the desert in 2015. Now their prayers have been answered, God help them, as Miller has arrived at the Cannes film festival to uncork an image that he describes as “the anti-Mad Max”: a loquacious Arabian Nights-style fantasy about the relationship between a former genius and a London academic. These people really should have read the fine print. Every magical wish has a therefore a cost.

Adapted from a 1994 AS Byatt novel, Three Thousand Years of Longing stars Tilda Swinton as Alithea Binnie, professor of narratology, telling stories about stories. Alone in her hotel suite in Istanbul, she opens a glass bottle and pulls out the Djinn (pointy-eared Idris Elba), vowing to grant her heart’s desire. It has spent millennia in confinement and has a lot to say for itself. And so the pair sit in white terry robes as they recount their various adventures and incarcerations, telling Alithea about the Queen of Sheba and the Ottoman Empire while periodically urging her to make a wish. The professor, perhaps for the first time in his life, is perplexed. “This wish is a dangerous business,” she complains.

Miller, a keen student of narratology himself, enjoys stripping stories down to their bones and recycling the parts into something new. Movies such as Happy Feet or the alluring Babe: Pig in the City work best when viewed as fairy tales. Even postmodern Mad Max spins your classic hero’s journey, the director’s version of a Western, Greek myth, or samurai tale. On this occasion, however, the conceit seems outdated, more subtext than text, as if the film still has one foot slipped into Alithea’s literacy theory seminar. Stories about stories can be light bulbs, stars. But they require more malice and abandon than this one can muster; a perhaps more obvious chemistry between its majestic protagonists as well. Alithea thinks the Djinn is a trickster though he blindly swears he isn’t. She’s too suspicious, too educated. She’s learned that every wish-fulfillment fantasy is just a cautionary tale with her makeup on.

None of this means that the film itself is a monkey’s paw, a wish that comes back as the worst thing in the world. Three Thousand Years of Longing is candid, heartfelt, like an antiquarian bookseller’s dream of The Thief of Baghdad. It’s so out of fashion that there’s ultimately something slightly glorious about it. At the age of 77, flushed with the success of a 50-year career, Miller has earned the right to do what he wants, when he wants, and to hell with fans who demand more warrior movies. of the road. I think he made this one just for him. I suspect it turned out exactly as he hoped.

Three thousand years of nostalgia screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

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