on Saturday 25 May, 2024

Sean Baker’s sex-worker romance ‘Anora’ wins Palme d’Or in Cannes

by : (FRANCE 24)

American indie filmmaker Sean Baker won a richly deserved Palme d’Or on Saturday for “Anora”, a darkly comic and deeply moving Brooklyn odyssey about an erotic dancer who marries the son of a wealthy Russian oligarch, starring Mikey Madison.

Baker dedicated the award to “all sex workers, past, present and future” as he accepted the Palme d’Orat theclosing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival. The win for “Anora” marks a new career high for the indie director, who built up a cult following with “Tangerine” (2015),“The Florida Project” (2017)and “Red Rocket” (2021).

“Anora” centres on Ani, a Brooklynstripper turned call girl who strikes gold with a wealthy client, the son of a Russian oligarch, only for the fairy tale to turn sour. It was an instant favourite among film critics, drawing rave reviews in Cannes.

“This, literally, has been my singular goal as a filmmaker for the past 30 years, so I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,” Baker joked, before adding that his ambition would remain to “fight to keep cinema alive”.

The 53-year-old director said the world needed reminding that “watching a film at home while scrolling through your phone, answering emails and half paying attention is just not the way, although some tech companies would like us to think so.”

He added: “So, I say the future of cinema is where it started: in a movie theater.”

Moments earlier, George Lucas received an honorary Palme d'Or from his old friend Francis Ford Coppola, reuniting two of the most pivotal figures of the last half-century of American moviemaking.

India’s Payal Kapadia took the second-place Grand Prix for her sisterhood drama “All We Imagine as Light”. A poetic tale of love and loss, Kapadia’s film was the first Indian competition entry in a staggering 30 years. It follows a pair of small-town nurses who find themselves adrift in the sprawling metropolis of Mumbai.

The third-place Jury Prize went to France’s Jacques Audiard for histrans gangstermusical“Emilia Pérez”. A thrilling Spanish-language debut for the veteran French helmer, with a preposterous pitch, it tells the story of a ruthless cartel boss who hires a lawyer to arrange his gender transition.

The glorious cast of “Emilia Pérez” –which includedArgentinian trans actor Karla Sofia Gascon, Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldana – also picked up a collectiveBest Female Actor award, while the male prize went to Jesse Plemons for his three roles– a submissive businessman, a grieving police officer and a bisexual cult member– in the absurdist triptych “Kinds of Kindness” by Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos.

Special prize for Iran’s Rasoulof

Many had expected the Palme d’Or would go toIranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, whose Cannes premiere just days after his hair-raisingescape from Iranprovided one of the dramatic storylines in festival history. The jury headed by Greta Gerwig chose instead to give Rasoulof a special prize for “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”.

A domestic drama unfolding against the backdrop of the recent “Women, Life, Freedom” movement, the film is a powerful indictment of patriarchal and theocratic oppression in Iran.Made underground in Iran on a shoestring budget, it includes real footage from the 2022-2023 protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini.

Portugal’s Miguel Gomes won Best Director for his latest black-and-white reverie “Grand Tour”, a beguiling Asia-set travelogue tracinga low-level British diplomat as he flees his fiancé across a crumbling empire.

France’s Coralie Fargeat took Best Screenplay for her gleefully gory “The Substance”, which provided the shock of the festival. A thrilling and bloody body horror satire, it starsDemi Mooreas an ageing and fading Hollywood star who undergoes a mysterious cloning procedure to avoid being axed by her callous producer.

Accepting the award, Fargeat thanked “all the women who take the risk of speaking out against abuse”. She added: “I really believe that movies can change the world, so I hope this movie will be a little stone to build new foundations.”

07:16arts24 © FRANCE 24

The Camera d'Or, the prize for best first feature across all ofCannes’ official selections, went to Halfdan Ullmann Tondel for “Armand,” starring “The Worst Person in the World” star Renate Reinsve. Tondel is the grandson of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and Norwegian actor Liv Ullman.

Politics after all

True to form, the French Riviera gathering showcased a broad palette of cinematic genres, from gritty social-realist dramas to gonzo body horrors. Cannes’ artistic director Thierry Frémaux had stated his aim to “host a festival without polemics”, adding that “the politics should be up on the screen”. As it turned out, there was plenty of politics both on and off the screen.

France’s belated reckoning with sex abuse in the film industry dominated the build-up to the festival, which kicked off with an honorary Palme d’Or for Hollywood icon Meryl Streep and emotional tributes to the women who placed this edition firmlyunder the sign of #MeToo – chief among them the director and actor Judith Godrèche.

The upcoming US presidential election took centre stage with Ali Abbasi’s timely Donald Trump biopic “The Apprentice”, which earned mixed reviews and a threat of legal action from the former US president. Out on the Croisette, the Trump-admiring Argentinian President Javier Milei was the target of a protest staged by the country's film workers who are battling to survive his“chainsaw” cuts to the cultural sector.

War's pervasive impact on civilians in Ukraine was the subject of Sergei Loznitsa’s latest documentary “The Invasion”, while the conflict raging in Gaza gave added prominence to director Mahdi Fleifel’s exile drama “To a Land Unknown”, the only Palestinian film in Cannes this year..

Festival organisers were at pains to reinin protests, but film stars and activists found more or less subtle ways to shed light on the plight of Gaza’s population and the hostages still held in the war-ravaged Palestinian enclave. Oscar-winning Hollywood icon Cate Blanchett notably got social media abuzz when she revealed the green lining of her black-and-white dresson the red carpet, in what was widely interpreted as a walking tribute to the Palestinian flag.