The first screening of Gosling's "Lost River" played Tuesday for one of the festival's most packed crowds, who surely got something they weren't expecting. "Lost River" is a baroque fairy tale set in the ruins of Detroit, filmed with bold, florid cinematography and a lurid, David Lynch-like atmosphere.
Immediate reaction from critics was largely negative. Variety's Scott Foundas called it a "first-rate folie de grandeur." The Telegraph's Robbie Collin dubbed it "dumb-foundingly poor."
But there were also cheers from festival-goers for "Lost River," which screened in the afternoon ahead of its evening premiere. Some acknowledged that the film, whatever its failings, was vibrant, ambitious and gave more focus to the imagery than most actors-turned-directors do.
Christina Hendricks ("Mad Men") stars as a single mother, Billy, to a toddler and a teenager named Bones (Iain De Caestecker). They live in a run-down building amid the detritus of a Detroit neighborhood where they're behind on their mortgage. Bones lives in fear of the local gangster named Bully (Matt Smith), while Billy, out of desperation for money, begins performing at an underworld nightclub featuring bloody acts of horror. (Gosling's girlfriend Eva Mendes plays a star performer.)
Gosling was a late absentee at the Cannes Film Festival last year because he was in the middle of filming "Lost River." Instead of appearing for the premiere of Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives" (a brother revenge tale also panned by critics), Gosling sent a note of apology. This year, he's slated in Cannes' Un Certain Regard section with "Lost River."
But the influence of Refn, who also helmed the noir thriller "Drive" starring Gosling, was easy to see on "Lost River." It has a theatrically bold visual style (with cinematography by "Spring Breakers" photographer Benoit Debie) and shares a composer from "Drive" in Johnny Jewel.
U.S. distributor Warner Bros. has not yet scheduled a release date for "Lost River," which was previously titled "How to Catch a Monster."
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake—coyle