Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera absolutely charmed the Cannes Film Festival audience at its world premiere in competition this afternoon, receiving a 9-minute standing ovation inside the Palais’ Lumière theater. For those keeping score, that ties for the longest of this year’s event with Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon which played out of competition.
An emotional Rohrwacher spoke in both Italian and French. Her first comment was “Grazie a tutti” in her native language before segueing to French and recounting that the film was made among friends. She continued, “This film couldn’t have been done without everybody who is here and especially Josh O’Connor.” The two then shared an embrace.
La Chimera, as Deadline’s Pete Hammond wrote in his review, is “an adventure, an ethereal and spiritual journey, a love story even on different levels, and a heist movie like no other.”
The center of action is set in the 1980s and deals with Italy’s notorious Tombaroli, a group of grave robbers who aim to live the easy life by taking from the dead and digging up and invading cemeteries and tombs to steal treasures from bygone eras thousands of years old to sell them off to fences, notably here the mystery person known only as Spartaco.
O’Connor plays a foreigner who is on a mission to perhaps discover a key to the afterlife so he can reunite with his true love. His unique talents for excavating the past in other ways leads to his association with the Tombaroli.
Rohrwacher, who has won prizes at Cannes for two previous films, 2014’s The Wonders (Grand Prix) and 2018’s Happy As Lazzaro (Screenplay) and was nominated for an Oscar this year for her live action short Le Pupille, has carved out a formidable reputation for herself, notably by gatecrashing the boys’ club that is traditionally the Cannes competition.