Cannes 2022 – Three thousand years waiting for you: George Miller reflects on his art in a playful and captivating tale

Between two Mad Max opuses, the Australian giant wonders about the power of stories with Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba.

Who else but George Miller could direct a film centered on an expert narratology character? With his mischievous university professor look, his old-fashioned bow ties and his fancy glasses, we can easily imagine Miller himself giving lectures to the four corners of the world on the myths, the spells of the great collective narratives, our inextinguishable thirst stories and fiction. In any case, this is the activity to which the heroine of Three thousand years waiting for youAlithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), English intellectual invited to a symposium in Istanbul, where she analyzes the conflict between the era of mythological stories and that of scientific stories, in which we would live today – but perhaps the reality is more complex than that…

After buying a trinket during a tourist visit to the Grand Bazaar, she will wake up a Djinn (Idris Elba) who has been sleeping for many years. The latter, as it should, offers Alithea to grant three of her wishes. But she refuses, at first, because she knows that, in the tales, the stories of wishes generally end badly. The Djinn then takes the opportunity to tell him about his extraordinary journey over the centuries, from the court of the Queen of Sheba to the Ottoman palace of Suleiman the Magnificent.

George Miller, who shattered contemporary cinema in 2015 with Mad Mad: Fury Road and must immediately return to the Wasteland for the prequel Furiosapauses here, does the opposite of what is expected of him (knowing that he has spent his career raising this love of the opposite to the rank of fine arts) and signs a reflective fable on his art of storyteller, on how the stories we tell structure our relationship to the world, on fiction as a power of re-enchantment. Generally interested in characters who soar into the world to confront or decipher it (from Max Rockatansky to the penguin ofHappy Feet), he has fun here keeping everyone, the whole history of the world, between the four walls of the cramped hotel room where the erudite conversation between the teacher and the genius takes place.

But this theatrical apparatus is constantly shattered by flashbacks flavored with Thousand and one Night : the film travels in a magical world, with joyful kitsch, evoking the naive orientalism of Hollywood productions of the golden age. The trip (because it is one) may well be imagined by a wise old man with high-level intellectual concerns, it is above all guided by an adventurous, mischievous, playful, sensual and carnal spirit. The stories told by the Djinn are set with fantastic, intoxicating, bizarre, sometimes hallucinating visions (the passage of centuries told in a handful of minutes, simply following the fate of a bottle thrown to the bottom of the sea), carried by a montage super fluid, which echoes the intellectual agility of the characters, whose verbal jousting turns, along the way, into romantic flirtation.

A philosophical tale metamorphosing into a magical love story, Three thousand years waiting for you is a great film-sum at the same time as a small film-essay, seeking to contain all the art of its author in a form that is both collected and liberated, contained and delirious, modest and grandiose. A film in the room to synthesize all the art of George Miller, like locking up a genie in a bottle.

Three thousand years waiting for you, by George Miller, with Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba… Out of competition. In theaters August 24.

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