CANNES, France: The Cannes Film Festival is missing one of its biggest stars of this year’s festival: Ryan Gosling.
The 32-year-old Canadian actor was unable to attend the premiere Wednesday of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s film “Only God Forgives.” Gosling stars in the Bangkok noir about a boxing club owner pressured by his mother to his avenge his brother’s murder.
At a press conference Wednesday, Cannes director Thierry Fremaux read, in French, a letter from Gosling apologizing for his absence. The actor is currently in Detroit shooting his directorial debut, “How to Catch a Monster.”
“I can’t believe that I’m not in Cannes with you,” Gosling wrote. “I was hoping to be coming but I am in the third week of shooting my movie. I miss you all.
“Nicolas, my friend, we really are the same, simply in different worlds and I am sending you good vibrations. I am with you all.”
His absence is a blow to the festival, which depends on top stars like Gosling to walk its red carpet and draw the world’s media attention to the annual French Riviera extravaganza.
Fremaux said he was sad that Gosling couldn’t make it.
“He is not with us physically, but as he stated, his thoughts are with us,” said Fremaux.
“Only God Forgives” is Gosling’s second collaboration with Refn following 2011’s “Drive.”
“Only God Forgives” was screened for the media early Wednesday at Cannes, where it drew mixed reviews for its extreme violence and nightmarish treatment of such a Greek tragedy.
“Only God Forgives” by Refn, who won the best director award at Cannes two years ago, is the story of Julian, an American fugitive played by Gosling, who runs a boxing club in the Thai capital as a front for a drug business.
After his brother is murdered for killing a prostitute, his gangster mother played by a chain-smoking, peroxide blonde Kristin Scott Thomas arrives demanding the heads of his killers, including a mysterious policeman handy with a sword.
As the family seeks revenge, the policeman decides their fate, with blood splattered throughout the film that is sparse on dialogue but heavy on imagery with many scenes set in claustrophobic corridors darkly lit in blood red.
In one scene a hitman is pinned to a chair with four skewers while his eyes are gauged out and in another a sword splits open a gunman’s chest, blood gushing and ribs exposed.
The film sharply divided critics at Cannes. Some people walked out of a press screening and others booed at the end, while some critics described it as “aesthetically brilliant”.