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Cannes 2017Movies

What's a kids film doing at Cannes? We ask Todd Haynes

Todd Haynes, director of "Wonderstruck," at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. (Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA)
Todd Haynes, director of "Wonderstruck," at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. (Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA)

Todd Haynes has been to the Festival de Cannes before. His “Velvet Goldmine” took a special jury prize in 1998, and 2015’s “Carol” went on to earn six Oscar nominations. But he’s never been here with a film like “Wonderstruck.”

Indeed, he’s never made anything like “Wonderstruck” before.

“My films are not always the most conventional,” the director, exhausted by travel but completely involved, acknowledged the night before “Wonderstruck” debuted in competition at Cannes.

But with this engaging and richly emotional film, smartly adapted from Brian Selznick’s uncommon novel, he’s not only made his first-ever family film, but he’s done so very much on his own terms.

“The thing that excited me was that I’d never done a movie about kids, a film kids could see,” the director says. “But I wanted it to be as complex, sophisticated and rich as any cinematic experience, to make something really sublime for kids. Great kids films are great films.”

At Cannes' "Wonderstruck" screening, from left, actors Millicent Simmonds and Jaden Michael, writer Brian Selznick, director Todd Haynes and actors Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore. (Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images)
At Cannes' "Wonderstruck" screening, from left, actors Millicent Simmonds and Jaden Michael, writer Brian Selznick, director Todd Haynes and actors Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore. (Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images)

In this goal he is helped by Selznick’s enormous novel, which tells the stories, first parallel and then intertwined, of two fearless and curious 12-year-olds, who, 50 years apart, run away from home chasing big-city dreams in Manhattan.

In 1977, young Ben (Oakes Fegley of the underappreciated “Pete’s Dragon”) takes off from Gunflint, Minn., for New York. In 1927, feisty Rose (newcomer Millicent Simmonds) leaves Hoboken, N.J., with the same destination in mind.

But that is only the beginning of the complexities that Selznick, whose first novel became Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” has layered into the story.

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