Entertainment & Arts

Cannes festival: Netflix film Meyerowitz Stories 'made for big screen'

A still from The Meyerowitz Stories featuring Justin Hoffman and Emma Thompson Image copyright Netflix
Image caption Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson play a married couple in The Meyerowitz Stories

The director of a second film at the centre of a row over Netflix's place at Cannes said he always intended for it to be seen on the big screen.

Noah Baumbach said he made The Meyerowitz Stories "as I make all my movies, with the expectation it will be shown on the big screen".

There has been controversy over Netflix's features being included in the competition for the Palme d'Or.

Netflix has not screened its productions in French cinemas.

But Baumbach said he made The Meyerowitz Stories, starring Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, "independently, with independent money" and it was acquired by Netflix in post-production.

The family comedy drama, which features Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler as half-brothers reunited as they plan an exhibition for their sculptor father Harold (played by Hoffman), is his first to be shown at the French film festival.

There were a few boos as the Netflix logo was shown at the film's first showing, on Sunday morning - but the cheers were louder.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Director Noah Baumbach and actor Emma Thompson share a happy moment
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hoffman and Ben Stiller play father and son

That was a marked difference from the reception given to Okja, the other film from the Netflix stable, which received loud boos during the opening credits - and both times round, as it had to be restarted due to technical issues.

Baumbach said of the importance of the cinema screen: "I believe in that and I think it's unique and singular - an experience that's not going to go away, in my opinion.

"Netflix acquired [the film] in post-production and they've been hugely supportive."

Cannes jury president Pedro Almodovar said last week that he could not imagine the Palme d'Or going to a film that had not received a cinema release, stressing the importance of the big screen.

Baumbach said he hadn't heard those quotes, while Hoffman traced the shape of a TV with his hands as he added: "I have a very big screen".

From next year, films will have to be released in French cinemas if they want to be considered.

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Media captionPedro Almodovar on Netflix

It was a high-spirited news conference, with Rain Man star Hoffman asking a journalist for his side profile at one point, so he could see the shape of his nose - after the reporter said people had asked if he was related to the star.

And when another said the film was "interesting", he replied: "That's not a good word. You didn't like it, did you?"

Stiller, who also played Hoffman's son in comedy Meet the Fockers, said how much he had enjoyed seeing his co-star's films when growing up.

But a mock grumpy Hoffman retorted: "I resent people saying they grew up with my work. Everyone who's older than me - please stand up."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Adam Sandler's performance has been warmly received by critics

Even if anyone did fit that bill, no-one got to their feet.

Emma Thompson plays Harold's third wife Maureen, an alcoholic who wears beads and tie-dye tunics.

She said of her role in the dysfunctional family drama: "Because I'm not from America, or that kind of family, it was a foreign country to me.

"I read it, and thought: 'I have no idea what's going to happen, but it's going to be fascinating'."

Thompson said she considered almost all of the characters to be suffering from shame, for a variety of reasons - Harold as he has not been as successful as some of his peers, his son Danny (Sandler) as he has no money and Matthew (Stiller) because he does have money.

"Everyone's ashamed," she mused. "So many people feel that way all of the time.

"Our culture is built around this shaming thing. That's why I think it's so powerful."

She praised the film for being both "very funny, and then suddenly terribly moving" and said she found the process of making it "extremely rewarding."

And it seemed the work paid off, with applause from critics at the end, and generally positive reviews - many praising Sandler in particular.

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Media captionOn its 70th anniversary the Cannes Film Festival features many films focused on real-life concerns

Stiller, appearing at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association gala for the International Rescue Committee, said the premiere on Sunday night received a standing ovation for Hoffman.

Describing it as his favourite Cannes moment, he said: "It was an amazing acknowledgement - he's had a wonderful career.

"To present a movie with him - and to watch the joy that was on Dustin Hoffman's face as he received this wonderful ovation… for me to be in close proximity to that was wonderful."

Mistress America and Maggie's Plan actress Greta Gerwig, the partner of Baumbach, said: "I had never seen it on a big screen before. And I looked around at the end, and saw all of these people weeping. Noah was crying, Dustin was crying. It's one of those things you just hear about happening."

Hoffman himself described it as a "special film".

Thompson - who'd taken off her heels to be more comfortable - was also at the beachfront party, alongside co-star Sandler, as well as Tilda Swinton and Jake Gylenhaal, who star in Okja.


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