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Cannes contenders: musical, horror and Iran drama vie for Palme


May 25, 2024 10:05 AM

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A Cannes jury led by "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig will select the Palme d'Or winner on Saturday, picking from a diverse line-up that includes musicals, macabre horror and a modern Cinderella tale.

Here are the contenders for the Cannes Film Festival's top prize:

- 'Emilia Perez' (Jacques Audiard) -

The synopsis initially sounded too crazy even for its shape-shifting director -- a musical about a Mexican cartel boss undergoing a sex change to escape the authorities, with pop superstar Selena Gomez in a supporting role. But gushing reviews suggest Audiard may well win his second Palme, after 2015's "Dheepan".

- 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig' (Mohammad Rasoulof) -

The story of a court investigator whose family life is torn apart by protests that convulsed Iran in 2022-23, Mohammad Rasoulof's film drew five-star reviews, and the mere fact of the director's presence in Cannes -- after he was forced to secretly flee from a prison sentence -- is hard to overlook.

- 'The Substance' (Coralie Fargeat) -

Demi Moore made her unlikely comeback in this acclaimed body-horror film, disappearing beneath layers of bizarre and hideous prosthetics. A breakout hit that drew boisterous cheers, wild shrieks and lengthy applause, "The Substance" also packs a powerful feminist message that could help it get over the line.

- 'Anora' (Sean Baker) -

Beginning as a modern Cinderella tale about a New York erotic dancer, before spiralling into a free-wheeling sex farce, "Anora" scored arguably the best reviews of the festival, dubbed a "wild, profane blast" with "complex empathy" by Vanity Fair.

- 'Megalopolis' (Francis Ford Coppola)

Coppola's self-funded epic -- a Roman drama transplanted to modern-day New York starring Adam Driver -- had been in the works for more than 40 years, and was this year's most eagerly awaited entry. Coppola has twice won the Palme d'Or, but critics were starkly divided over his latest bid.

- 'Bird' (Andrea Arnold) -

Featuring Barry Keoghan as a young dad, "Bird" was an early frontrunner with its tough but sweetly fantastical tale of working-class England. British auteur Arnold deals with a world of gang violence, poverty, teen pregnancy and abusive parents -- and charmed critics with a "warmhearted fable".

- 'All We Imagine As Light' (Payal Kapadia) -

The first Indian entry in 30 years, this young director's first feature film surpassed all expectations. It follows two nurses, adrift in Mumbai, searching for love and connection in an often cruel and indifferent world. "This is a glorious film," concluded The Guardian's five-star review.

- 'The Apprentice' (Ali Abbasi) -

A biopic about Donald Trump's formative years from an award-winning Iranian director grabbed plenty of attention -- not least after the ex-president threatened to sue over a scene in which he is shown raping his wife. Reviews were fairly positive, with Sebastian Stan and Jeremy Strong shining as Trump and his cut-throat lawyer.

- 'Limonov: The Ballad' (Kirill Serebrennikov) -

The exiled Russian director tackled the bizarre true life of dissident poet Eduard Limonov, who fled the Soviet Union but returned to found a new Bolshevik Party after the Cold War. Ben Whishaw drew rave reviews in the lead role.

- 'Caught by the Tides' (Jia Zhang-Ke) -

One of China's most celebrated auteurs boldly repurposed the leftover material he had amassed across his entire career to create a brand-new film. The result was a decades-spanning love story, and a meditative reflection on cinema and the profound changes in China over the past 25 years.

- 'Three Kilometres to the End of the World' (Emanuel Parvu) -

Following a gay teenager ostracised by his village community in Romania, Parvu's film won the Queer Palm on Friday -- an unofficial prize given to the best movie with LGBTQ themes.

- 'Kinds of Kindness' (Yorgos Lanthimos) -

Three short stories in one, this is the latest team-up between the Greek director and Emma Stone, just weeks after she won an Oscar for "Poor Things". Reviews were largely favourable, but many noted that the film will be too subversive for some viewers, and the film was booed by some critics.

- 'The Most Precious of Cargoes' (Michel Hazanavicius) -

This tale of a twin thrown to safety from a death train transporting his Jewish parents to Auschwitz was the first animation in competition since 2008's "Waltz With Bashir", from the director of the Oscar-winning "The Artist".

- 'The Shrouds' (David Cronenberg) -

The horror maestro's latest supernatural drama portrayed a man who builds a device to connect with his dead wife -- a deeply personal project for Cronenberg, who lost his wife in 2017. Starring Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger, many felt it was not the Canadian director's finest work.

- 'Oh, Canada' (Paul Schrader) -

The iconic writer-director had been on a roll lately with a string of dramas about obsessive and dangerous men. But his reunion with "American Gigolo" star Richard Gere for the story of a dying man reflecting on his past mistakes received some of the festival's weakest reviews.

- 'Parthenope' (Paolo Sorrentino) -

Another love letter to his native Naples from the Oscar-winning director of "The Great Beauty" and Netflix series "The Young Pope", Sorrentino's latest was stunning to look at, but left many critics feeling empty.

- 'The Girl with the Needle' (Magnus von Horn) -

An early entry that took Cannes spectators down a dark path of unwanted motherhood to a shop of horrors with a serial killer twist. The Swedish director impressed critics, with a film at times so hard to watch that many walked out.

- 'Motel Destino' (Karim Ainouz) -

An erotic thriller from the Brazilian director of Henry VIII drama "Firebrand", "Motel Destino" was undoubtedly this year's sexiest entry, despite intense competition. A young gangster on the run takes refuge at a neon-hued roadside sex motel, where he becomes embroiled in the owners' lascivious lives.

- 'Grand Tour' (Miguel Gomes) -

Ostensibly the story of a British colonial officer in Burma who flees his wedding but is pursued by his bride, the "Grand Tour" was nothing if not avant-garde -- confounding some critics, delighting others.

- 'Marcello Mio' (Christophe Honore) -

The fictional tale of a woman who starts impersonating her father, the late Italian screen icon Marcello Mastroianni, proved a "meta" treat for those invested in such things.

- 'Beating Hearts' (Gilles Lellouche) -

Lellouche received a warm welcome for his nearly-three-hour gangster/love story set in 1980s docklands of northern France.

- 'Wild Diamond' (Agathe Riedinger) -

The tale of a fragile teenage girl, desperate to find fame on social media and reality TV, was hailed by movie magazine Variety as "the arrival of a major filmmaker" in first-time French director Agathe Reidinger.


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