Cannes Day 5: ‘Emilia Pérez’ Dazzles, Studio Ghibli lauded

The Cannes Film Festival keeps on chugging, with more acquisitions, more premieres and an honorary Palme d’Or awarded to a studio for the first time.

The Glorious Return of Jacques Audiard

French filmmaker Jacques Audiard is a consistent staple at Cannes. His film “A Prophet” won the Grand Prix in 2010, 2012’s “Rust and Bone” competed for the Palme d’Or and 2015’s “Deephan” won the Palme d’Or. The last time Audiard was at Cannes in 2021, his smaller “Paris, 13th District” competed for the Palme d’Or.

Now he’s back with “Emilia Pérez,” a musical crime comedy about an escaped Mexican cartel leader undergoing gender-affirming surgery that stars Karla Sofía Gascón, Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña and Édgar Ramírez. And judging by the response to the film, it sounds like he has a good shot at Cannes’ top prize once again.

The film “landed the loudest, most enthusiastic standing ovation,” according to one Variety editor on X, with a nine-minute round of applause that left the entire cast “in tears.” (Also worth noting, for some reason, that baby Annette from Leo Carax’s bizarro “Annette” from a few years ago was on the red carpet for “Emilia Pérez.”)

The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan described “Emilia Pérez” as “a Zoe Saldana/Selena Gomez crime drama that’s also a trans empowerment epic that’s *also* a full-blown movie musical. Imagine Almodóvar meets ‘Sicario’ meets ‘This is Me… Now’ and you’re halfway there. Loved!”

Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson said the movie is “a strange and rewarding concoction.” “The film walks a fine line between daring and ridiculous, and unlike some other big-swing movies at this year’s Cannes, ‘Emilia Pérez’ stays mostly on the side of good. Its heart is in the right place,” Lawson wrote.

The Daily Beast notes that the movie is “the buzz of Cannes.” Esther Zuckerman’s review states that “Emilia Pérez” “takes its mission in all of its various genres — musical, crime thriller, and soap opera — seriously thanks to the committed performances and Audiard’s expressive direction. Nothing is treated as a gag despite the inherent zaniness of the performances. Ultimately, it’s really earnest, above all else.”

Our own review (by Ben Croll) called the film “startling and delightful.” “It was about time for someone to take such a big swing, and to hit the ball so far out the park,” the review concluded.

Will “Emilia Pérez” take home the top prize? Only time will tell. But it is certainly the movie that has received the most enthusiasm so far. No begrudging acceptance or talk about the ambition or intent, just a wild movie that people loved, which seems like a safe bet.

More Acquisitions

Of course, Cannes is as much a marketplace as it is a film festival, and Mubi has acquired its third film of the festival after Coralie Fargeat’s anticipated “Revenge” follow-up “The Substance” and Andrea Arnold’s warmly received “Bird.” Their latest acquisition is Magnus von Horn’s “The Girl with the Needle.”

The black-and-white drama is based on the life of Danish serial killer Dagmar Overbye. She murdered 25 children between 1913 and 1920, including one of her own. Overbye was sentenced to death, but her sentence was later commuted to life in prison. It’s the feel-good movie of the festival! New York Times editor Karl Delossantos wrote on X: “With elements of horror in stunning black-and-white and a pair of award-worthy performances, it’s bound to be among the best of Cannes.” Little White Lies called the movie “an extraordinary true-life yarn.”

Neon, which has also been snapping up movies out of Cannes, acquired Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof’s “The Seed of the Sacred Fig.” The thriller screens in competition this week and as a press release on the film notes, this is “Rasoulof’s first return to Cannes in years, after being barred from traveling to serve on last year’s Un Certain Regard jury.”

The official synopsis explains that the film “follows Iman, an investigating judge in the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, who grapples with mistrust and paranoia as nationwide political protests intensify and his gun mysteriously disappears. Suspecting the involvement of his wife Najmeh and his daughters Rezvan and Sana, he imposes drastic measures at home, causing tensions to rise. Step by step, social norms and the rules of family life are being suspended.”

Still: no domestic distribution for Francis Ford Coppola’s epic “Megalopolis.”

Studio Ghibli Gets a Palme d’Or

This weekend will also see Studio Ghibli, the fabled Japanese animation studio most recently responsible for Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning “The Boy and the Heron,” receive an honorary Palme d’Or. This is the first time that a studio has received a Palme D’Or. Pretty cool.

Cannes president Iris Knobloch and general delegate Thierry Fremaux said, in an official release: “For the first time in our history, it’s not a person but an institution that we have chosen to celebrate. Like all the icons of the seventh art, these characters populate our imaginations with prolific, colorful universes and sensitive, engaging narrations. With Ghibli, Japanese animation stands as one of the great adventures of cinephilia, between tradition and modernity.”

Toshio Suzuki, cofounder of Studio Ghibli and producer of “The Boy and the Heron,” said in an official statement: “I am truly honored and delighted that the studio is awarded the Honorary Palme d’or. I would like to thank the Festival de Cannes from the bottom of my heart. Forty years ago, Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and I established Studio Ghibli with the desire to bring high-level, high-quality animation to children and adults of all ages. Today, our films are watched by people all over the world, and many visitors come to the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka and Ghibli Park to experience the world of our films for themselves. We have truly come a long way for Studio Ghibli to become such a big organization. Although Miyazaki and I have aged considerably, I am sure that Studio Ghibli will continue to take on new challenges, led by the staff who will carry on the spirit of the company. It would be my greatest pleasure if you look forward to what’s next.”

So do we.

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