Day two on the Lido is a razzle-dazzle ride of reality TV satire and old-school gangster drama.
In Superstar, being a celebrity sucks. Xavier Giannoli’s timely and fascinating film tells the story of Martin Kazinski (Kad Merad), a common blue-collar schmo who becomes an overnight megastar for reasons that never fully become clear – neither to him nor the audience. Is it a mix-up? A simple case of mistaken identity? Or are there more sinister forces at work? Perhaps the world has simply gone mad?
Hounded by the paparazzi and mobbed for autographs wherever he goes, Martin’s life becomes a living nightmare, a quiet man’s hell from which it appears there is no escape. With nowhere to turn, Martin places his trust in a sympathetic TV producer (Cécile De France) who promises to help Martin find an answer to the one question that proves frustratingly elusive. Why him?
Though it somewhat overstates its point at times, Superstar is a vitriolic examination of the cult of celebrity. It says in no uncertain terms that fame is fickle and disposable, but also raises some valid questions about the responsibility that comes with being thrust into the public eye. Martin may not have asked to become a household name – indeed, he vociferously rejects all aspects of his celebrity – but now that he is, is he obliged to act responsibly or behave a certain way?
Echoes of The Truman Show and Matteo Garrone’s Reality, which had its premiere in Cannes earlier this year, permeate the more existential moments, when Martin manages to find a moment of calm to reflect on the sheer madness of his circumstance. There’s also a more tangible tonal similarity with Black Mirror, the excellent Charlie Brooker-penned three-part miniseries from last year. For all that it evokes likeminded slights against consumerism and the media, however, Giannoli’s has its own potent message: It’s not how you achieve fame, but what you choose do with it that matters.
It’s hard to ignore the similarities between The Iceman and Martin Scorsese’s mob movie touchstone, Goodfellas. Both are based on true events, both follow an episodic cautionary-tale narrative that upholds the age-old truism that crime doesn’t pay, and both are exceptionally violent, masculine films.
Unlike Henry Hill, however, Richie Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) never wanted to be a gangster. A normal family life is all he ever desired, but his sociopathic instinct (which, on the evidence that his brother was jailed for killing a 12-year-old girl, we’re led to believe was inherited) kicks in when made crook Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta, who else?) offers him work as a contract killer.
Richie’s rise from shy working guy to hotshot hitman plays out in conventional fashion – the suits get sharper, the goatee more neatly pruned with each scene. But when his card is marked after a succession of messy jobs put the heat on Roy and his loyal right-hand man Rosenthal (David Schwimmer, looking like a cross between David Seaman and a slimline Ron Jeremy), there's no turning back.
Shannon’s Richie is a mesmeric antihero; a man of few words capable of sudden acts of terrifying, lethal brutality. He flinches only when his family are threatened, and, although we start to suspect he's truly as cold as his moniker suggests, it’s here we see between the joints in the armour, at a vulnerability and a tenderness that are simultaneously reinforced by the chemistry shared between Shannon and his on-screen wife, Winona Ryder.
Other casting choices work equally well. Chris Evans plays against type while upping the dodgy facial hair ante as ice-cream truck driving assassin, Freezy, and James Franco makes a memorably and all-too brief appearance. But the raw intensity that Shannon brings to his role – previously glimpsed at in Shotgun Stories and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, but far more animalistic here – mean that The Iceman is ultimately his show.