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


US indie director Sean Baker won a richly deserved Palme d’Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival for “Anora”, a raw and often hilarious story about an erotic dancer who strikes gold with a wealthy client, starring Mikey Madison. 

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Baker accepted the prize with Madison watching in the audience at the Cannes closing ceremony on Saturday. 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 Brooklyn stripper turned call girl who marries her client, the son of a Russian oligarch. The fairy tale turns sour when the young man’s parents turn up to have the marriage annulled, though Ani is not the type to give in. 

Moments earlier, George Lucas was given an honorary Palme d’Or by his old friend and sometimes collaborator Francis Ford Coppola, reuniting two of the most pivotal figures of the last half-century of American moviemaking. 

Francis Ford Coppola (right) embraces fellow Hollywood legend George Lucas prior to awarding him an honorary Palme d'Or in Cannes.
Francis Ford Coppola (right) embraces fellow Hollywood legend George Lucas prior to awarding him an honorary Palme d’Or in Cannes. © Andreea Alexandru, Invision, AP

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 his trans gangster musical “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 included Argentinian trans actor Karla Sofia Gascon, Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldana – also picked up a collective Best Female Actor award, including Argentinian trans actor Karla Sofia Gascon, Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldana. 

Best Male Actor went to Jesse Plemons for his part in the absurdist triptych “Kinds of Kindness” by Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, which also starred Emma Stone. 

Special prize for Iran’s Rasoulof

Portugal’s Miguel Gomes won Best Director for his latest black-and-white reverie “Grand Tour”, a beguiling Asia-set travelogue tracing a 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 stars Demi Moore as an ageing and fading Hollywood star who undergoes a mysterious cloning procedure to avoid being axed by her callous producer.   

A brilliant casting: Demi Moore stars in Coralie Fargeat's "The Substance".
A brilliant casting: Demi Moore stars in Coralie Fargeat’s “The Substance”. © Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

And there was a special award for Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, whose Cannes premiere came just days after his hair-raising escape from Iran set the stage for an unprecedented showdown with the Islamic Republic, which had pressured him to withdraw his film and then sentenced him to jail.    

Made underground in Iran on a shoestring budget, Rasoulof’s “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” traces the ethical dilemmas faced by an Iranian civil servant who is promoted to the role of regime investigator in the midst of a popular uprising. 

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