Cannes 2023: ‘The Idol’ scandalises cinemagoers with kink and toxic fame

The Idol received a modest five-minute ovation at Cannes, and early reviewers focused on the kink, which included some graphic dirty talk

May 23, 2023 11:35 am | Updated 12:44 pm IST - Cannes

Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye, Lily-Rose Depp and Sam Levinson.

Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye, Lily-Rose Depp and Sam Levinson. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Cannes cinemagoers may only have seen two episodes of the new HBO series The Idol, which premiered at the festival on Monday, but they got what some critics said was a “shocking” amount of raunchy sex scenes.

The series stars Lily-Rose Depp as a pop star struggling to get back on track after a public breakdown, surrounded by heartless handlers, when she meets the manipulative leader of a modern-day cult, played by musician Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye.

There is a significant nod to Britney Spears and the toxic fame that engulfed 90s female pop stars.

Feeling a loss of control over her art, Tesfaye’s character starts to lure her in, despite her best friend and assistant warning her he is “so rapey.” “I kinda like that about him,” says Depp’s character.

The series received a modest five-minute ovation, and early reviewers focused on the kink, which included some graphic dirty talk. An Indiewire columnist wrote on Twitter it was like putting “Black Swan, Succession, and Secretary in a blender ... Prepare yourself for quite the discourse.” The series had already been plagued by rumours of onset turmoil and graphic sex scenes.

Variety reported that the show needed major re-writes and re-shoots and switched director midway through, bringing in Euphoria creator Sam Levinson. However, it does bring yet another complex female character to Cannes, which has served up plenty of films exploring the dark side of women, and making their stories the focus.

The world’s leading industry extravaganza has entered its second week, and the competition for the main prize, the Palme D’Or is heating up.

Tuesday will bring more stars to the red carpet with the premiere of Wes Anderson's Asteroid City — about American space cadets — with a dazzling cast including Margot Robbie, Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and Jeff Goldblum.

On Sunday, Jude Law awed and disgusted cinemagoers with his portrayal of King Henry VIII — with a stomach-turning leg infection and penchant for offing his wives — in Firebrand, which premiered on Sunday. The movie focuses on Catherine Parr, the only of Henry's wives to outlive him, played by Alicia Vikander.

Festival favourite, Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki, returned with his bittersweet romance Fallen Leaves on Monday, along with Club Zero by Austria’s Jessica Hausner about a nutrition cult.

There are still movies to come from past winners, Britain’s Ken Loach and Germany’s Wim Wenders, among others. An early front-runner from the first week is British director Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest, a unique and horrifying look at the private life of a Nazi officer working at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

There was also a lot of love for Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore's May December, which looks at the relationship between an older woman and a schoolboy, still married years after their relationship became a tabloid scandal.

The festival has also seen major out-of-competition world premieres for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon which received rave reviews over the weekend. And Lily-Rose's father Johnny Depp made a splash at the festival, with the controversial actor appearing as French King Louis XV in the opening film Jeanne du Barry.

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