Cannes Recap Day 8: Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ Dazzles, A24 Pins ‘Robin Hood’

Also: David Cronenberg has some interesting thoughts on AI

Anora Cannes
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Cannes is still going strong, with a splashy debut for one of the year’s most anticipated titles, more acquisitions and a press conference fit for a legendary filmmaker.

Cannes Falls in Love With “Anora”

Sean Baker, the filmmaker behind “Tangerine,” “The Florida Project” and “Red Rocket,” was rolling into the festival with one of the more anticipated films, not just of Cannes but of the entire year, with “Anora.” The drama, which stars Mikey Madison in the title role, is in competition for the Palme d’Or and, judging by the response to the movie, it has a good shot at taking home the prize.

New York Times editor Karl Delossantos wrote on X that “Anora” is “a masterpiece and maybe Sean Baker’s best. A kinetic laugh-a-minute rom-com quasi-thriller that is entertaining, hilarious and profound in its final moments. Mikey Madison gives a star-is-born performance and immediately a contender for Best Actress.” Freelance writer Guy Lodge described the movie on X as “Funny, kinetic, loving, conflicted.”

Viewers seem particularly enamored with Madison, who has already appeared in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” 2022’s “Scream” and television series “Better Things” and whom Baker said he wrote the part for in “Anora.” Critic Josh Parham wrote (on X) that Madison “holds the frame with her ferocious persona” and Isaac Feldberg noted that her performance is “the biggest star-is-born moment I’ve seen at Cannes so far.”

It is also the best reviewed film at Cannes so far, with critics echoing that early, post-screening sentiment. Richard Lawson at Vanity Fair wrote: “It’s a wild, profane blast. But Baker is also zooming in, very slowly, so that in the movie’s startling, disarming final scene we are forced to reconsider what we’ve just watched. Was it a raucous chase movie or a quiet tragedy?” James Mottram in Total Film said that film is “hugely enjoyable.” “Baker controls the narrative with real aplomb, crafting a time-bomb mix of physical comedy and high drama. Better still, the final third alights on real pathos,” Mottram wrote.

Our own review, by Steve Pond, said that the film was “a hoot,” adding that, “It’s one of the most entertaining movies to play in Cannes this year, and also one of the most confounding.” Pond compared it to an “escalating nightmare comedy” like 1980s masterpieces “After Hours” or “Married to the Mob.” “It swings wildly back and forth while also hanging onto its heart, and it’s just too much fun to worry about how much Baker is cramming into its two hours and 18 minutes,” Pond wrote.

Neon acquired domestic rights to “Anora” last fall. Could the studio that distributed “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Titane,” “Parasite” and “Triangle of Sadness” be in for another Palme d’Or winner? We’ll find out soon enough.

Cronenberg Chimes In

During a press conference for his new, somewhat divisive film “The Shrouds,” filmmaker David Cronenberg, known for futuristic techno-thrillers like “Videodrome” and “eXistenZ,” was asked about AI.

“It’s like nuclear fission,” Cronenberg explained. “It’s ferocious and terrifying, but it’s also incredibly useful. What do we do? I have no idea.” He described himself as a filmmaker who embraces new technology, in particular “the advent of computer-generated imagery.” (If you witnessed the fake fire in “Maps to the Stars,” computer-generated imagery hasn’t embraced him in return.) As for AI, Cronenberg said, “I welcome it and I look forward to using it.”

“It’s quite shocking, though, to see what can be done, even now, with the beginnings of AI. It might completely transform the act of writing and directing,” Cronenberg explained. “You can imagine a screenwriter sitting there, writing a movie… if that person can write in enough detail, the movie will be there. The act of production will be gone. That’s the promise and the threat of AI.”

Cronenberg has always been great at imagining some new technology taken to its horrifying conclusion; teleportation probably sounded like a good idea until he made “The Fly.” So it’s interesting to see him recognize the terrors that AI can bring while also embracing it wholeheartedly, especially since the technology is definitely being used to emulate his own filmmaking style, algorithmically duplicating the work of one of our most treasured artists. But hey, maybe he also wanted to know what “The Royal Tenenbaums” would look like remade by David Cronenberg.

A24 Heads Into Sherwood Forest

In a competitive situation, A24 emerged victorious with the domestic rights to Michael Sarnoski’s upcoming “The Death of Robin Hood.” Hugh Jackman will play the title character, joined by Jodie Comer.

The logline reads: “Grappling with his past after a life of crime and murder, an aging Robin Hood finds himself gravely injured after a battle he thought would be his last. In the hands of a mysterious woman, he is offered a chance at salvation.”

Sarnoski is known for his 2021 film “Pig,” which starred Nicolas Cage and was one of the best films released that year. He is following that film up this summer with “A Quiet Place: Day One,” a prequel set during the alien invasion that would later be explored in “A Quiet Place” and “A Quiet Place: Part II.” Sarnoski took over the production after Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Midnight Special,” the upcoming “The Bikeriders”) left due to creative differences. “A Quiet Place: Day One” stars Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn and Djimon Hounsou (who also appeared in “A Quiet Place: Part II”).

Lyrical Media is fully financing the new film, which will start production in February 2025. Aaron Ryder and Andrew Swett will produce under their Ryder Picture Company banner alongside Alexander Black for Lyrical Media. Lyrical’s Jon Rosenberg and Natalie Sellers will executive produce with Rama Gottumukkala, Sarnoski and Jackman. WME Independent, which represents the worldwide sales rights to the film, negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers with A24.

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