The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Screening of the film

[1/3] The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Screening of the film "Club Zero" in competition - Red Carpet Arrivals - Cannes, France, May 22, 2023. Cast member Mia Wasikowska poses. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

CANNES, May 22 (Reuters) - Onetime Hollywood rising star Mia Wasikowska was at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday for the premiere of "Club Zero," which stars the Australian actor as a manipulative teacher and is director Jessica Hausner's second try at winning a Palme d'Or.

"Club Zero" is Vienna-born Hausner's second film to be in the running for the film festival's top prize, after 2019's "Little Joe" that marked her English-language debut.

In the film, new teacher Miss Novak (Wasikowska) leads a course on conscious eating for a group of teenage boarding school students that asks them to make increasingly drastic changes to their eating habits, with the goal of reaching "Club Zero."

Miss Novak uses vaguely spiritual chanting and meditation to draw them into a cult-like group whose members police each other's eating habits and, eventually, whether they eat at all.

"She truly believes that she is saving them and together they take it too far," said Hausner.

"That is what makes her so convincing and so dangerous: Her belief meets the wish of the young people to change the world and increases the dangerous inclination towards developing eating disorders for some of them," added the director.

"Club Zero" is the latest in a series of independent films that Wasikowska has signed onto in the past few years.

The Australian actor's star was on the rise with movies including Tim Burton's 2010 "Alice in Wonderland" and 2015's "Crimson Peak" but in the late 2010s she decided to move back to Sydney.

She told the IndieWire trade publication in March that working back-to-back projects had left her burnt out. "I want to do more things in life other than be in a trailer," she said.

Ahead of the premiere, roughly two dozen film industry members lined up on the stairs into the luxurious Grand Theatre Lumiere to demonstrate for more action on initiatives in cinema to combat climate change.

Reporting by Miranda Murray, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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