21 juin 2024

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Cannes Film Festival: Jacques Audiard breaks the codes with Emilia Perez at the festival

A hair-raising musical comedy where she plays the leader of a Mexican cartel who changes gender. Cannes has found its Palme?

A hair-raising musical comedy where she plays the leader of a Mexican cartel who changes gender. Cannes has found its Palme?

A minor passage now forgotten with her new film, “Emilia Perez”, which shook the Cannes Festival in lack of a big film. Long ovations, won over audience, journalists already shouting about the obvious Palme d’Or. The Croisette is finally experiencing its first big shock.

Jacques Audiard wanted to write an opera libretto, divided into acts with very archetypal characters. Then through conversations with Clément Ducol, the composer of the music, they migrated towards cinema and musicals. As for the origin of the story, it comes from the novel “Listen” by Boris Razon. In his book, he tells the story of a drug trafficker who wants to become a woman. But he doesn’t follow up on it.

He finds the idea fascinating. Will the violence of fathers disappear in this kind of bodily magic? There is a lyric in the film that talks about: “changing bodies to change souls and society”. This is a hypothesis to consider.

It was after spotting this strong personality during a video-conference casting that Jacques Audiard met her in a Parisian restaurant. Initially, the author of A Prophet thought of having Juan play a man and Emilia a woman. If he finally lets himself be convinced to hire a trans actress for the second, it is Karla Sofía who will insist on embodying both facets of the character.

Narrating your film is already saying too much. Because “Emilia Perez” is a sort of summary of the best of cinema as well as current themes. Who embraces an art while subverting all the codes.

By choosing to adapt a true story told in a book by Boris Razon, Audiard twists all expectations. Makes his film a gripping thriller, a wild musical comedy (the score is by Camille and Pierre-Marie Dru and the magnificent choreographies of Damien Javelet), speaks of gender, resilience and human nature, captivates, moves and makes you smile.

“It’s a magnificent gift that Jacques gave me,” said the actress this Sunday at a press conference, the day after an official screening where she cried tears to the applause. “Few actors or actresses have such an opportunity in their career and I couldn’t miss the opportunity. I immersed myself in this role, I went beyond my limits and it took me a exorcist to get out of it. My loved ones can testify to this!”

We understand when we see the film that the presence of teen star Selena Gomez is in fact a marketing argument (she does not appear for more than ten minutes), the film is carried by a cast of incredible actors. And at the top of the list, Zoe Saldana, impeccable and the great revelation Karla Sofia Gascon, Spanish transgender actress, pivot and soul of a film of incredible richness.

Jacques Audiard has just set the bar very high in the race for the Palme d’Or, and an acting award for Karla would be really strong!

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