Sean Baker’s Anora wins the Palme d’Or 2024

Sean Baker wins the Palme d’Or for his film Anora at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. A plunge into the sulphurous world of paid sex and oligarchs, with a revelation: actress Mickey Madison.


On Saturday, May 25, the 77th Cannes Film Festival awarded the Palme d’Or to Anora by American director Sean Baker. A surprise for festival-goers, much to the satisfaction of some critics, signed by the unpredictable president of the jury and director of the film Barbie, Greta Gerwig. The award was presented by George Lucas, the director behind the Star Wars saga.


The film succeeds “Anatomie d’une Chute” by Justine Triet, which won the award last year.


The United States had not won the supreme award since Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life in 2011.


A modern-day Cinderella


The story of Anora, a social comedy conceived as a thriller, follows the adventures of a sex worker – a kind of escort girl from New York’s Brooklyn district, played by American actress Mickey Madison.


During a drunken evening in a nightclub, the young Russian-speaking American meets her Prince Charming in Vanya, the son of a Russian oligarch. After renting his services, the young man’s passion begins to burn brightly, and an impromptu wedding is arranged in Las Vegas.


An Orthodox priest, close to the young man, disavows the union and informs his wealthy family of the situation. Furious, the parents rush to New York, determined to have the marriage annulled. The film becomes a comedy of the absurd, reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1995).


Alternating between slums and ultra-luxury villas, the film is nonetheless luminous, with its protagonists fundamentally human.


Mark Eydelshteyn and Mickey Madison, aka Yvan and Anora, promptly married in Las Vegas in Sean Baker’s Anora (2024) © Neon/Le Pacte


In contrast, America appears as a world corrupted by money and sex, religious power as oppressive and the wealthy caste as smug and contemptuous. This vitriolic portrait is reminiscent of another award-winning film two years earlier: “Triangle of Sadness” (Sans Filtre in French) by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund.


The film stars Mickey Madison, already seen in the “Better Things” series and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”. In the latter, the actress played one of the fanatical groupies of the clan of the sinister Charles Manson.


For her part, jury president Greta Gerwig declared “this film is magnificent and full of humanity. It allowed us to laugh and despair beyond hope.”


An adept of transgression


For 53-year-old director Sean Baker, spotted with “Tangerine” at the Deauville American Film Festival, this third appearance at Cannes is a real consecration. After a first Cannes presentation of “Florida Project” at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in 2017, he saw his “Red Rocket” nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2021, but failed to win it.


His third trip to Cannes proved to be the right one.


With Anora, the director continues his reflection on controversial subjects linked to sexuality, particularly in a world where sex is presented as a working tool. In fact, Sean Baker dedicated his award “to all sex workers past, present and future.”


Receiving the award from the 80-year-old father of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Georges Lucas, among others, the winner declared: “This Palme d’Or is everything I dreamed of. […] Now I’m going to keep fighting to keep cinema alive and out in theaters.”


“In a cinema, you share sadness, laughter and dread with your friends and family. The future of cinema is where it began, in a movie theater.”


Other award winners


Jacques Audiard’s Emilia Perez, produced by Saint Laurent Production, also won. The film won the Prix du Jury, while its four actresses tied for the Prix de l’interprétation féminine.


Les Graines du Figuier Sauvage, a film made clandestinely by dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, was also shortlisted for the Palme d’Or, and was awarded the Prix Spécial du Jury.


Less fortunate but just as emotionally charged, La Plus Précieuse des Marchandises, an animated film by Michel Hazanavicius, delighted the Croisette just as much.


Full list of winners at the 77th Cannes Film Festival

Palme d’Or: Sean Baker for “Anora”


Grand Prix: Payal Kapadia for “All We Imagine as Light”


Jury Prize: Jacques Audiard for “Emilia Perez”.


Director’s Award: Miguel Gomes for “Grand Tour”.


Special Jury Prize: Mohammad Rasoulof for “Les Graines du figuier sauvage” (Seeds of the Wild Fig Tree)


Best actress: Karla Sofia Gascon with Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldana ex-aequo in “Emilia Perez” by Jacques Audiard


Best actor: Jesse Plemons in “Kinds of Kindness” by Yorgos Lanthimos


Screenplay award: Coralie Fargeat for “Substance”


Caméra d’or: Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel for “Armand”


Caméra d’or Jury Special Mention: Chiang Wei Liang for “Mongrel”.


Palme d’or for short film: Nebojša Slijepcevic for “The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent”.


Special Short Film Mention: Daniel Soares for “Bad For a Moment”.


Featured Photo : © Festival de Cannes

Victor Gosselin est journaliste spécialisé luxe, RH, tech, retail et consultant éditorial. Diplômé de l’EIML Paris, il évolue depuis 9 ans dans le luxe. Féru de mode, d’Asie, d’histoire et de long format, cet ex-Welcome To The Jungle et Time To Disrupt aime analyser l’info sous l’angle sociologique et culturel.


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