‘Armageddon Time,’ a portrait of white privilege, touches the ear

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KANS, France – As audiences at the Cannes Film Festival stood to admire the director’s much-anticipated autobiographical play “Armageddon Time” about the director’s own 1980s childhood in Queens, Gray’s voice trembled as he addressed the crowd.

“It’s my story, one way,” Gray said. “And you shared it with me.”

“Every last bit took control not to burst into tears,” Gray said, still recovering in his ears the next day. “Making the film was a really weird journey and my dad died in Covid two months ago. The whole process is full and emotional. “

“Armageddon Time”, starring Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong, is as much a hit at this year’s festival as any other American film. Gray’s film, which will release Focus features in the United States later this year, has been hailed as a tender victory for New York’s “The Immigrant” and “Ad Astra” filmmakers, not only for digging into the details of his childhood but also how the film grew its own white. Revisits the privilege of rising – how race and money can tip the scales in the formative years of youth.

Paul Graf (Banks Repeta) is a sixth-grader in a middle-class Jewish family, modeled after 53-year-old Gray. At school, Paul’s friend Johnny (Jillian Webb) is a black kid with fewer benefits, treated differently from Paul. When Paul’s family chooses to send him to a private school, the gap widens. Connections with today’s inequalities are not difficult to understand. In private school, Jessica Chastain made a cameo in the role of Marina Trump, Donald’s sister, and an assistant U.S. attorney.

For Gray, “Armageddon Time” is the current movie, and is coming home after two long-distance films from the Amazon-set “The Lost City of Z” and the space adventure “Ad Astra.”

AP: When did “Armageddon Time” start in your head?

Gray: I was at an art exhibition in Los Angeles five years ago. The graffiti read: “History and mythology begin with individual microorganisms.” I made this picture before I went into space. It was a very difficult movie and it was a very difficult movie to complete. The end result was not entirely mine. It was a very sad experience for me. I wanted to try to rediscover my love for the medium and why I wanted to do it in the first place. I said, “Screw it, I’ll make the most personal film for me.”

AP: You called 1980 the most important year in American history. Is that because of Reagan’s election?

Gray: People don’t remember him preaching in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where he was killed by Goodman, Schwarzenegger and Cheney Clan. And he started talking about state rights. He knew exactly what he was doing. I understand he didn’t come out and say the n-word. He came out and was not completely Trump. But that was his purpose. I think it was sowing the seeds for a kind of corporatist, I-first, up-and-down, rooted in the racist notion of American capitalism that has not completely left us. When you propose a system that is all about money, it has a basis for oppression. It did not begin with slavery. Originally started with the evaporated tribes. We are very good at genocide.

AP: These are not the usual introverted themes of memoir films.

Gray: It’s all about the real economic structure of the country. I felt it would have the power of a context that is too small, the transfer of a child from a public school to a private school and how we all do our part for our (experienced) things. In other words, “I am going to make this moral compromise now. I’m going to contribute to the moral compromise little by little. “

AP: Were you thinking about this when you were living through it as a child?

Gray: When I was younger I didn’t think about the levels of capitalism, if anyone was there it meant someone would be down there. I knew 48 kids in a class, something went wrong. But here’s the thing: why isn’t it a source of great frustration in our country that public education in our country is financed by local property taxes? That is why they should burn the state legislatures. The system basically makes itself very happy by saying: Let’s make a superhero movie but put a trans person in it. That’s fine. That’s nice, whatever. But that does not solve the problem. You have to look at the system yourself and understand that it is based on the brutal oppression of a group to survive.

AP: Your film has received an enthusiastic reception here. Have you thought about how it will be adopted statewide?

Gray: I’m sure there will be people who hate the movie. But as an American, I feel a special sense of loss that we filmmakers are not so willing to face class ideas. One of the most amazing things about what Francis Ford Coppola did in that movie is how it presents such a brilliant picture of the decay of capitalism. See “jaw”. The mayor will keep the beach open no matter what.

AP: Was Trump really involved in your private school experience?

Gray: They were sure. If I had a high school yearbook, I would show you the board of trustees where Frederick Christ Trump was in the picture. He used to walk in the halls of the school. Her daughter (Marian) gave a lecture at school which I asked my brother to describe his best and then I remembered the best for me and we compared the notes. They were very similar.

AP: You are a filmmaker who is considered a classic dedicated to making personalized films for the big screen. Do you ever feel like one of the declining breeds?

Gray: It’s my obligation to keep trying to do what I’m doing. Not because of the ego or the feeling of “I’m the best” or anything else, the kind of movie I like, I want to think that at least there is someone who likes it. And who is speaking on their behalf? The question is: Are you going to chase with the passion you dream about, what you hope for? Or are you going to pay? I want to be richer or stronger or whatever. But if it’s not, I’m fine with that. I’d rather just follow my dream.

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

For more coverage of the Cannes Film Festival, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/cannes-film-festival

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