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'Palme d'Or whisperer': Tiny US studio Neon eyes fifth Cannes prize

By AFP

May 24, 2024 07:18 PM


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Could a tiny movie studio founded seven years ago win the Cannes Film Festival's top prize for a stunning fifth consecutive time?

Neon, a New York-based indie movie outfit, has been dubbed "the Palme d'Or whisperer", for a track record that turns the world's most powerful movie producers green with envy.

Films like "Parasite", "Titane", "Triangle of Sadness" and "Anatomy of a Fall" were released in US theatres by Neon, under deals struck before they won the Cannes prize.

The company purchases -- and more recently, has produced -- movies that it then distributes to movie theatres, as well as running marketing and awards campaign for the films.

When this year's festival best film winner is unveiled on Saturday, Neon will again boast two frontrunners -- giving it a strong hope of going five for five.

Weeks before Cannes kicked off, Neon acquired "Anora", a raw and often-hilarious story about a New York erotic dancer who strikes gold with a wealthy client, infuriating his Russian oligarch parents.

It boasts the best reviews of the festival so far.

And last week, just days after its director secretly escaped from Iran, "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" was quietly snapped up by Neon.

That film -- about a judge's struggles amid political unrest in Tehran -- will have its world premiere Friday, and expectations are sky-high.

Multi-award-winning director Mohammad Rasoulof's dramatic journey to Cannes, fleeing an Iranian prison sentence for "collusion against national security", will surely be hard for the jury to ignore.

 Weinstein, Chan 

 Neon founder Tom Quinn had spent decades working in indie films with producers including Harvey Weinstein, before deciding to branch out on his own.

In 2016, he struck a deal with China's Sparkle Roll Media, fronted by screen legend Jackie Chan.

Their first film was "Colossal", an oddball sci-fi starring Anne Hathaway.

Neon was officially launched the following year. Critical success soon came with ice-skating comedy "I, Tonya", which won an Oscar for star Allison Janney.

Following the election of Donald Trump as United States president, Chinese investors swiftly departed, replaced by Texas billionaire Dan Friedkin.

But film buying remained in the hands of Quinn, who had worked for years and on multiple films with South Korean director Bong Joon-ho.

"It didn't matter what he was going to do next -- it was going to be a Neon film," Quinn said in a recent interview.

"We were going to go for broke, and pre-buy it," he told "The Town" podcast.

That film turned out to be "Parasite", the stunning, genre-hopping drama about a poor family infiltrating a rich family's home, which became a sensation.

Not only did it win the Palme d'Or in 2019, but it went on to become the first non-English-language film to win best picture at the Oscars.

 Glow 

Since then, Cannes has proven to be a happy hunting ground for Neon, which has grown to around 55 staff.

Neon bought body horror "Titane" almost two years before it won the 2021 Palme d'Or.

And the company won bidding wars for both "Triangle of Sadness" and "Anatomy of a Fall" immediately following their Cannes premieres, but before the prizes were unveiled.

Named after an ephemeral gas that glows when captured inside a glass tube, the company will be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again this Saturday.


AFP


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