Cannes 2024: Stars get shady on the carpet as the Nicolas Cage renaissance rages on with Irish director Lorcan Finnegan

Reviewer Tara Brady has her pick for the Palme d’Or and Seán Baker miraculously resurrects the screwball comedy

Margaret Qualley, Rossy De Palma, Anya Taylor-Joy and Yseult led the hat trend at Cannes. Photograph: Getty Images
Throwing shade

There has been a lot of chatter about Cate Blanchett and her Jean Paul Gaultier gown – as designed by Haider Ackermann – with its Palestinian flag palette. But the biggest fashion trend on the Croisette is long overdue at a festival where Factor 50 is a must: the stars have got their hats on.

Anya Taylor-Joy kicked off a week of hat action with an umbrella-brimmed Jacquemus straw hat teamed with a wildly, slinky Atlein dress. The same actor rocked a beaded Jil Sander headdress at the photocall for Furiosa: A Mad Max Story. Rossy De Palma and Yseult were proudly hatted on the Emilia Perez red carpet. When Margaret Qualley arrived at the press conference for Element Pictures’ new Yorgos Lanthimos’s film, Kinds of Kindness, in a Chanel dress and a wide ivory hat pinned up with a broach, fans noted the headpiece’s resemblance to one worn by Qually’s mother Andie McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Zoe Saldaña: ‘When cinema is this f**king special... it just moves you’

The premiere of Jacques Audiard’s Emilia Perez was an emotional affair. Zoe Saldaña cried during the nine-minute standing ovation. And then Selena Gomez cried. And then everybody cried because Selena was crying. Two days later, a queenly Saldaña unpacked that magical moment at a Kering Women in Film event, in a witty interview that touched on everything from the perimenopause to the percentage of scripts she receives that are set in space (estimate 7/10) to addressing Hollywood inequality: “We need more female CEOs. We need more women sitting on boards… And once those women are there, don’t just be happy and feel so lucky that you’re the only woman sitting at the table. Get three men to get up.”

Despite her storied career, Saldaña is a revelation in Emilia Perez. The wildly imaginative crime opera was quite a trip from the first draft.

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“See, it’s about a narc – it’s an opera, by the way,” she says. “Oh, and it’s a musical. And it’s about a narc who needs to transition into a woman and you’re going to play the lawyer that helps him do that. And you’re like, I’m sorry... Oh, and it’s in Spanish. Oh, of course, we’re setting this in Mexico. So from all of that to here, being in the festival, and people being deeply moved. I don’t know what to say. When cinema is this f**king special and that fresh, it just moves you. I’m not being a narcissist! I’m talking as someone who loves art so much.”

While there was some whinging on social media platforms about Mexican actors – breakout title star Karla Sofia Gascón hails from Madrid – Saldaña highlights that Mexico is a “melting pot”. Her upbringing, too, provides an antidote to purity-casting champions. The actor was born in New Jersey, raised in New York, and relocated to the Dominican Republic after the death of her father in a car crash. Her Puerto Rican mother remained in New York to earn enough money to pay for private school for her three daughters.

“Spanish is my is my first language,” says Saldaña. “To be able to play someone ‘negrita’ in my native tongue. When it comes to immigration and when it comes to people [who are] darker, there’s a little bit of colonisation. We Latinos still need maybe another 500 years more to break out of this. That’s a very complex conversation.”

When The Irish Times interviewed Saldaña 10 years ago, she was already straddling three major franchises: Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Guardians of the Galaxy. She has subsequently added James Cameron’s Avatar sequence to her CV, making her the fourth highest-grossing actor of all time (with $14,240,098,353 in box office receipts.)

“I’m very grateful for the journey that I’ve had,” she says. “And for the opportunities that I’ve been given from a very early age. For a little girl from Queens, New York, to be in a James Cameron movie? And that catapulted me into a full-blown career that continues to educate me. If I had planned this, it would have never happened.”

Five Faye Dunaway facts from Laurent Bouzereau’s new biodoc
  1. Dunaway grew up as Dorothy Faye, a southern belle, beauty pageant queen and cheerleader in Florida.
  2. Her dad John MacDowell Dunaway jnr – a career noncommissioned officer in the United States army – was such a raging alcoholic that her mother sent a letter to the war department begging for him to be drafted.
  3. She is not always popular with co-workers. Many years before Dunaway’s 2019 dismissal for slapping a stagehand on a Broadway production, Bette Davis told Johnny Carson that Dunaway was “the worst person she ever had to work with”.
  4. She has bipolar personality disorder and has spent 15 years in alcoholics anonymous.
  5. Despite her marriages to J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf and photographer Terry O’Neill, Marcello Mastroianni was the love of her life. Their two-year affair ended when he refused toi divorce his Catholic wife.
How long before he sues?

Exiting the premiere of The Apprentice, Ali Abbasi’s new Donald Trump biopic co-produced by Ireland’s Tailored Films, every viewer had the same question: how long before he sues? The answer was: not long. Within hours of the Cannes screening, Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign told Variety and Deadline: “We will be filing a lawsuit to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers. This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalises lies that have been long debunked.” Learned friends have been called in to combat what Cheung calls “pure malicious defamation” that “should not see the light of day”.

Review: Anora
Anora
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Director: Seán Baker
Cert: None
Starring: Mikey Madison, Mark Eidelstein, Yuriy Borisov, Karren Karagulian, Vache Tovmasyan, Ivy Wolk
Running Time: 2 hrs 18 mins

Seán Baker, the most entertaining chronicler of contemporary degeneracy, has miraculously resurrected the screwball comedy. Nobody in this riotous movie says hallelujah: they are far too busy swearing and shouting at the breakneck pace of His Girl Friday.

Returning to the entry-level sex work that powered Tangerine, The Florida Project, and Red Rocket towards sleazy glory, Anora gleefully casts the young Uzbeki-American of the title in a raucous reprise of Pretty Woman. Anora (Mikey Madison), or Ani as she likes to be called, is a pretty Brooklynite working in a tacky lapdancing joint when Ivan Zakharov (Mark Eydelshteyn), an adorably clueless young Russian rocks up to the club. They party, get attached, and party some more. Ivan, it transpires, is the son of an oligarch. His unlimited resources extend to a private jet; all the better to take the giddy, intoxicated young couple to Vegas for an impromptu wedding. Goons are swiftly dispatched. Armenian fixer Toros (Karren Karagulian) sends henchmen Garnick (Vache Tovmasyan) and Igor (Compartment Number 7′s Yura Borisov) to straighten everything out with an annulment. Chaos, cartoonish violence, and cursing ensue, as Ani repeatedly injures her hapless captors.

An inspired cast jolly along Baker’s back-alley Lubitsch towards an unexpectedly circumspect denouement. Tart observations about money, class, and power are encrypted in a lumpenprole romp. Call your bookmaker: my pick for the Palme d’Or.

Review: Emilia Perez
Emilia Perez
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Director: Jacques Audiard
Cert: None
Starring: Zoe Saldaña, Selena Gomez, Karla Sofía Gascón, Édgar Ramírez
Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins

Jacques Audiard has serious Cannes pedigree: A Prophet won the Grand Prix in 2010, Deephan won the Palme d’Or in 2015, and he competed in the official competition with 2012′s Rust and Bone and 2021′s Paris, 13th District. This directly outrageously sexy, heated musical telenovela follows Zoe Saldaña’s faithful lawyer on a mission to help Manitas, a terrifying Mexican cartel leader (Karla Sofía Gascón), undergo sex reassignment surgery. Audiard’s clever script touches on typically incendiary issues with song, lightness and compassion. In common with Xavier Dolan’s groundbreaking Laurence Anyways, self-actualisation is wed to thorny, heartbreaking dilemmas. The process yields the titular heroine, a reformed character, who desperately wants to make amends. To this end, Emilia Perez establishes a charity to assist with missing people lost to the drug cartels and, posing as an aunt, reunites with the family she left behind, including Mantias’s damaged “widow” (Selena Gomez). The cast rises to match a huge emotional register culminating in literal and figurative explosions. Audiard’s book reimagines the musical halfway between heated drama and song. Choreography, cinematography, and design equally lean into his Sprechstimme innovations.

Review: The Surfer
The Surfer
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Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Cert: None
Genre: Horror
Starring: Nicolas Cage
Running Time: 1 hr 39 mins

The Nicolas Cage renaissance rages on and this unsettling Ozpoiltation thriller provides a perfect sandbox for “Nicolas Cage”, the actor who enjoys a good metatextual jape. The suffering hero of Irish director Lorcan Finnegan’s fourth feature harks back to the equally besieged protagonists of everything from Wild at Heart to Mandy. Cage’s frantic unnamed businessman arrives at the idyllic Australian beach where he grew up to find a terrifying, butch surfing cult has taken over. “Don’t live here; can’t surf here,” is chanted aggressively as Cage and his embarrassed teenage son take flight. Undeterred, Cage hangs around, parked close to the beach, as hostilities and humiliations pile up. Cutaways to wildlife and a soundtrack that trills with birds and animals add to the escalating sense of danger. By the third act, Thomas Martin’s sneaky script and Radek Ladczuk’s playful camerawork leave the viewer and Cage completely disoriented. There are welcome nods to the genre standard, Wake in Fright, but the misleading azure skies add to the bad trip. “Before you can surf you must suffer,” says menacing surfing guru, Scally (Julian McMahon). Cage obliges throughout this entertaining B-picture.