CANNES, France -- Here's Bill Murray, a rumpled riot in mismatched summer wear, talking about his ongoing screen collaboration with writer-director Wes Anderson, the filmmaker (who still shoots on actual, tactile-friendly film, Super 16 millimeter in this case) who gave us "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums,""Fantastic Mr. Fox"and other fastidiously framed and eccentrically observed studies in young people, their addled elders and their elaborate coping mechanisms:
"Sometimes," Murray said at the press conference following the premiere of Anderson's"Moonrise Kingdom"here in Cannes, "when you work with a director you know you not only may never see him again, sometimes you hope you never seen him again. And that goes for the director as well. They can't wait for you to leave. They drive you to the airport to make sure you leave. That happens.
"With Wes, I've never gotten a ride to the airport."
Set on the fancifully imagined island of New Penzance, somewhere off the coast of Rhode Island in 1965, "Moonrise Kingdom" takes us back to a time of transistor radios and Tang and discreetly roiling adolescence. It's a bittersweet comic fable (and one of Anderson's most satisfying achievements) about two 12-year-olds unhappy in different ways.
Sam (Jared Gilman, whose horn-rims make him look like a miniature edition of character actor Joe Flynn) loves Suzy (Kara Hayward, blessed with sharp timing and easily communicated feeling). Suzy's a combustible girl, plagued by annoying brothers. Her lawyer mother (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with the island's sole policeman (Bruce Willis); Suzy's lawyer father (Murray) seems poorly equipped for familial stress and strain, and is by nature a retreater.
Anderson turns much of his 93-minute creation over to the obsessively ordered routines of the "Khaki Scouts of North America," modeled on the Boy Scouts, out of which Sam feels he must get, and fast. Portraying Sam's scoutmaster, who knows enough to hold his ever-present cigarette well away from a cache of fireworks, Edward Norton proves to be the cast's ringer, perfectly at home with the stylized precision of Anderson's preferred playing style.
Anderson's films often center on the feelings of misunderstood, unconventional children, and "Moonrise Kingdom" is his most direct address of that theme to date. On first viewing it seems to lose some steam in its later passages, involving a hurricane, a flood, a Noah's Ark pageant and an extended rescue mission involving rival scouts (Harvey Keitel appears, briefly, as their leader). But there's a palpable human element to the carefully composed visual environment this director loves. His camera is perpetually gliding sideways or doing a 45-degree pivot, taking in a new perspective, revealing another character responding (or not) to the situation at hand, set off in a kind of visual italics.
These are storytelling tools of Anderson's trade, and Cannes adores a director with a strong personal stamp. In recent years, the world's premier film festival has opened with Hollywood products playing out of competition, recent examples being "The Da Vinci Code"or, more happily, "Up." Other years it's one of the titles competing in the main competition slate, some of them pretty grim, such as "Blindness," an allegory of the most medicinal sort.
This year, no medicine. "I'm just so happy with how Wes just gets better," Murray told the crowd after the first of Wednesday's many showings of "Moonrise Kingdom" (which screened in recent days for the press in New York, Los Angeles and London). Today's Cannes roll-out began with the 11 a.m. press screening and is being followed by an afternoon encore screening, followed in turn by the dress-up occasion: the opening ceremonies acting as a prelude for the 8 and 11 p.m. red carpet screenings drawing an invitation-only crowd much more attractive than you'd ever find at the press screenings.
Then comes the official dinner, followed by a separate opening night party.
Tilda Swinton, who appears in "Moonrise Kingdom" as a formidable and unnamed representative of Social Services, had this to say at the press conference: Anderson's work family was quite simply a delight, and "I was so happy to join them on a kind of camping trip." Murray praised Swinton as a "monstrous" actress.
"These are what you call 'art films'," Murray explained to the multinational press horde laden with a stunning variety of digital devices. "I don't know if you know what those are, but they're films where you work very, very long hours for no money. All we get is this trip to Cannes. That's it.
"But fortunately we've saved from other jobs we've worked on, so we can (afford to) work with Wes over and over again."