‘Rumours’ Jokes About Looming Apocalypse – But It Isn’t That Funny, Is It?

The apocalypse seems to be on a lot of filmmakers’ minds this year. The latest example: “Rumours,” an entirely quirky take on the end of the western world as seen through a disastrous G7 meeting, which premiered out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

Starring Cate Blanchett as the leader of Germany, Charles Dance as the (oddly British accented) U.S. president and a host of other actors rounding out the G7, the film is a mix of genres that aims for satire but doesn’t quite achieve coherence.

On the heels of Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling ode to the decline of American power in “Megalopolis,” “Rumours,” directed by Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson, echoes the theme of Western haplessness and arrogance leading to disaster.

Part comedy, part parody and part fever dream, the movie sets seven world leaders adrift at a G7 dinner as the rest of their staffs and indeed the world has more or less gone off the grid.

What to do? Some of the leaders insist on continuing to prepare their joint statement on global cooperation. The Canadian prime minister seems consumed by his marital problems. They all end up wandering through the foggy woods for hours.

Somewhere in all this, zombie bog men from an archeological dig come back to life and Alicia Vikander, in a cameo as a European Union leader, becomes obsessed with the discovery in the woods of a giant brain. It appears to drive her mad.

What does it all mean? Maddin and his collaborators seem deeply disturbed at the state of our world, as many of us are at the moment. In his disjointed and absurdist way, he dismisses current world leadership as self centered and parochial, even as they are well aware of the path we are on – toward some final inferno.

The premiere audience at the Grand Theatre Lumiere seemed to get it, and gave the directors and cast a warm and prolonged ovation.

In the end, it’s the compassion each world leader shows for the other as they struggle through the fear and bewilderment of their night in the forest that wins the day. Where they fail as world leaders and politicians, Maddin seems to say, they prevail as human beings.

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