Sean Baker, from mouse to palme d’or with Anora

Sean Baker, from mouse to palme d’or with Anora
Sean Baker, from mouse to palme d’or with Anora

PORTRAIT – After a difficult start in the profession and several films where he already explored sex and marginality, the 53-year-old independent American filmmaker has just achieved recognition at Cannes.

An American juror never leaves the deliberation table until he is assured that an American wins a prize. A French juror never leaves it before being sure that no Frenchman leaves with a distinction. We got this joke from Vincent Lindon. One thing is certain, the president of the jury, the American Greta Gerwig, did not hesitate to award the Palme d’Or to her compatriot Sean Baker. She is not the first. Tarantino gave it to Michael Moore for Farenheit 9/11 in 2004 and Robert de Niro to Terence Malick for The Tree of Life in 2011. We will not hold it against Greta Gerwig or her jury as Anora excited the festival-goers.

Sean Baker, 53, is not the best-known American independent filmmaker. He doesn’t have the notoriety of James Gray or Jeff Nichols. On the contrary, he rowed quite a bit before this Cannes consecration. His name will now resonate very far after the Palme d’Or awarded to an almost unclassifiable film as it manages to bring together all genres (thriller, satire, burlesque) in a great headlong rush, from the slums of Brooklyn to the villas luxury. Anora looks like nothing but a remake of Pretty Woman by the Coen brothers or Safdie.

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Taste for the marginalized

Sean Baker was almost disappointed following the presentation ofAnora at Cannes. This meeting between a New York prostitute and the son of a Russian oligarch did not create controversy. He wanted it to be divisive, he got everyone to agree. Critics like the jury. He does not shy away from his pleasure this evening and dedicates his palm “to all sex workers, past, present and future. »

In his speech, he also praises the cinema, while he was revealed with a film shot entirely with an iPhone, Tangerine, in 2015. Noticed at the Sundance and Deauville festivals, this UFO follows the journey of two transgender prostitutes over the course of a day in Los Angeles. His next film, The Florida Projectabout a kid and her mother living in a seedy motel near Disney World, confirms his taste for misfits and wild castings – apart from Willem Dafoe, he recruits his actors on Instagram or at the supermarket.

Excess of all kinds

Sex, and its commodification, is Sean Baker’s great subject. In 2021, in Red Rocketits first selection at Cannes, it features a porn star played by Simon Rex. Anora, she is played by actress Mikey Madison. She wouldn’t have stolen an acting award. The 25-year-old actress, seen in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood And Scream, trained in pole dancing for three months. But his performance is not just acrobatic. She embodies with crazy intensity this Anora determined to take her share of the American dream, even if it means getting married in Las Vegas to a Russian daddy’s boy, an irresponsible and smack-headed teenager. A marriage which will provoke the anger of the parents traveling to Moscow and the intrusion of a trio of henchmen who look like broken arms.

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Sean Baker spoke about his early desire for cinema and his studies at New York University. His entry into the profession is thwarted by excesses of all kinds and an addiction to heroin. “I wasted a lot of time, he explains to AFP. That’s why when you look at my counterparts, they’re ten years younger than me. I went through some bad times.” Sean Baker worked his way up by editing wedding videos and corporate films before directing his first fiction films. In Cannes, he reached the top. Anora already has a prestigious American distributor, the independent studio Neon, which has distributed the last four Palmes d’Or in the United States including Anatomy of a fall, by Justine Triet. Around’Anora to conquer the world.

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