'Adoration' is adored, but not universally

Atom Egoyan’s Adoration premieres here tonight, and was unveiled to the press earlier today. I saw the film back in Toronto, and liked it, but figured it would polarize audiences in Cannes. After the failures of Ararat and Where the Truth Lies, which both suffered from overwrought ambition–and which even Egoyan’s fans had trouble defending–Adoration is a more intimate film on a much smaller budget. It shows the Toronto auteur returning to his tangled roots, and he seems to relish the freedom. This is classic Egoyan, a playful, perverse intrigue that throws a myriad of ideas into incestuous play and makes of virtue of a preposterous plot. I won’t go into detail here, but it’s about a teenage boy (Devon Bostick) who creates a fictional tale of a terrorist incident involving his deceased parents, which triggers a series of video discussion groups on the Internet and some very bizarre behaviour by the boy’s French/drama teacher, played by the director’s wife, Arsinee Khanjian.

I saw Adoration in Toronto before coming to Cannes. I wanted to attend the Che press conference, which conflicted with today’s press screening, so I didn’t witness the audience reaction to the screening first hand. But most people I’ve talked to reported that the applause was unusually warm and generous. As for the industry’s critical response, it won’t be in print until tomorrow’s trades are published, but from what I can gather there’s a mix of positive, negative and mixed. Egoyan’s films are an aquired taste, so you expect some polarization. But from what I could gather, the consensus was favorable. So I’ve just done a live interview on CBC Newsworld where I reported that Egoyan’s film has been well received in Cannes.

Then I just ran into one of the most prominent American critics here, who said he thought it was “astonishingly bad.” He said he could find half a dozen of his colleagues who would tell me the same thing. But the applause was generous, no? He said he interpreted the ovation as “sarcastic” applause. A few minutes later, another critic, who liked the film, argued that it’s Egoyan’s best since The Sweet Hereafter, then said some of the applause may have been sarcastic, if that’s conceivable, but from where he was sitting, it was genuine.

Only in Cannes, where a film’s fate is decided within hours, do you get people conducting forensic post-mortems on applause. Stay tuned. No doubt, the verdict from the world pantheon of film critics will be set in stone by morning.

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