Cannes 2024 (6)

A Summary of the Festival
Emilia Pérez (Jacques Audiard)

Favorit für die Goldene Palme 2024: "Emilia Pérez" von Jacques Audiard (© Shanna Besson)

As the Cannes Festival draws to a close, speculation is rife as to who might win the Palme d'Or this year. The New York Times sees two films at the forefront that are universally regarded as favourites. One is Jacques Audiard's Mexican crime and drug thriller "Emilia Pérez", a musical that transcends all genre boundaries. What makes the film so exciting is the fact that you never know how the story will continue. Among French critics, "Emilia Pérez" is the absolute favourite, similar to last year's eventual winner "Anatomy of a Case". The New York Times names the body horror thriller "The Substance" starring Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley as the another potential winner. The film by Coralie Fargeat puts the audience and its leading actress Demi Moore through a lot on her horror trip to a supposed rejuvenation. Rarely has one seen such a radical examination of beauty and decay, age and youth set in the world of media glamour.

It seems that genre cinema has become acceptable again in Cannes. With its balance between sex and crime, Sean Baker's "Anora" is also a genre film in the broadest sense. What all three films have in common is a sense of black humour that makes the cinema experience a highly macabre pleasure.

Two award-worthy titles were added at the last minute. The Indian-European co-production "All We Imagine as Light" wowed the critics and catapulted Payal Kapadia's film to first place in the SCREEN magazine rankings. The Indian director, who won the prize for best documentary film in Cannes three years ago with "A Night of Knowing Nothing", impresses in her feature film debut with a carefully told story of three women in Mumbai. Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof made headlines a few weeks ago when it was revealed that he had fled Iran to escape an eight-year prison sentence. He was able to complete his film "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" in Hamburg. Rasoulof, who previously won the Golden Bear (and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury) in Berlin in 2020 for "There is No Evil", addresses the protests initiated by young women that shook Iran after the death of the young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in 2022.

Films that I liked and that I think are worthy of an award were Paul Schrader's "Oh, Canada", Jia Zhang-ke's "High Rises the Tide" and Ali Abbasi's "The Apprentice". With so much cinematic quality, it is no exaggeration to speak of a strong year. Festival director Thierry Frémaux was proved right: instead of demonstrative messages of solidarity, politics played out on the big screen in Cannes.

Of course, there were also disappointments. It was mainly prominent directors whose films failed to fulfil expectations. First and foremost Francis Ford Coppola with his overloaded, megalomaniac project "Megalopolis". Yet also David Cronenberg delivered just a weak reflection of his former brilliance with "The Shrouds". Vincent Cassel styled as a Cronenberg avatar with the appropriate hairstyle, an amputated breast by Diane Kruger and extensive sex scenes between the two of them - that was all the film had to offer.

For Paolo Sorrentino, it was rather the lack of sex that turned his ode to his hometown of Naples into a disappointment. His film "Parthenope" presents the otherworldly beautiful model Celeste Dalla Porta as the Greek goddess Parthenope, the mythical founder of Naples. Reincarnated in the 1950s, she emerges from the sea and meets the American author John Cheever (Gary Oldman) in Capri, who warns her that the world cannot bear such beauty.

In "Kinds of Kindness", Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos creates a triptych of three short stories featuring the same actors. What sets them apart is above all the changing hairstyles of Jesse Plemons and Emma Stone. As in "Poor Things", Willem Dafoe is once again the one who pulls the strings. Nevertheless, the whole thing doesn't fit together and leaves the viewer cold with its artificial setting.

What was noticeable this year was the abundance of sex scenes. We saw a lot of naked skin. Sometimes appropriate, sometimes inappropriate. In any case, better than violence. Perhaps cinema is a machine of desire after all.