Cannes 2024: with Emilia Perez, Jacques Audiard wakes up the competition [critique]

A musical comedy about a Mexican drug trafficker who decides to change his sex! Audiard surprises and delights with a trio of flamboyant actresses: Zoe Saldana, Selena Gomez and THE revelation Karla Sofía Gascón.

It's already been four days since the competition started and to be honest, we were starting to get a little impatient. We certainly saw some good films there (Bird by Andrea Arnold in the lead) and known around Megalopolis one of those Hernani battles of which Cannes has the secret. But nothing really salient. A gently lukewarm water tap. And then, like Zorro, Audiard arrived! And finally, and suddenly, the festival burst into flames. Like a match that begins after a long training session.

Between Audiard and Cannes, the love story began 28 years ago with a screenplay prize for its first appearance in competition with A very discreet hero. Will follow a prophet (Grand prize in 2009), Of rust and bonethe Palme d’Or Dheepan in 2015 and The Olympics in 2021. The most poorly received and more widely the film undoubtedly the least loved (but defended by Première) by its author and yet a harbinger in its own way of this Emilia Perez. By his will to step aside. By this desire to renew itself in the form (black and white) as in its technical team with this romantic gesture that we did not know about, with this assumed blue flower side.


Except that Emilia Perez go further, higher, stronger. A musical comedy about a Mexican drug lord who wants to change his sex. Just that ! But not only that! A crazy bet in which Audiard mixes – no pun intended – genres with incredible dexterity. Singing, dancing, Greek tragedy, wild action film, narco film, melodrama… Enter Emilia Perez is the promise of an incredible, spectacular, thrilling journey lasting 2 hours 10 minutes without downtime. The story opens with Rita (Zoé Saldana), a precarious lawyer forced to put her talent at the service of the defense of criminals whom she is enraged by succeeding in acquitting almost every time. And whose life changes the night she is kidnapped by this drug trafficker, Manitas, to help her change sex and become Emilia, the woman he has always been deep down, after having passed herself off as died near his family. Changing sex therefore but also nature because in a gesture of redemption, Emilia will create a charitable association providing assistance to the victims of drug traffickers while managing – always with the help of Lisa – to reunite her wife by her side ( Selena Gomez) and their children by posing as a distant relative. The calm before the storm… for matters of the heart obviously, which we will let you discover on August 28 when it is released in theaters.

Drugs, violence, gender transition… Emilia Perez is fully in keeping with its time, but here, the subjects are at the service of the film and not the other way around. No trace of speech, of message to convey. Just cinema. Nothing but cinema. Crazy script fluidity given the multitude of twists and turns that occur there, an assumed first degree and so refreshing in an era of kingly cynicism. Of stunning musical quality thanks to the melodies so divinely crafted by the singer Camille and her companion Clément Ducol (up to a revisitation of the Passengers of Brassens in Spanish which tears your heart in the very last straight line), to the powerful choreographies of Damien Jalet which accompany, shake up, energize the story without crushing it and which fundamentally symbolize what is Emilia Perez. A film that doesn't flex its muscles but opens hearts.

Emilia Perez

And he also owes this to the incarnation of his heroines. The trait common to all Audiard films, the one which revealed Tahar Rahim, Karim Leklou, Reda Kateb and offered some of the most beautiful roles of their careers to Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Romain Duris, Matthias Schoenaerts… From the first shot ofEmilia Perezwe have the feeling of rediscovering Zoé Saldana, the superstar ofAvatar to whom no one before Audiard had entrusted a role so rich in ups and downs. At his side, although in a more secondary role, Selena Gomez also shines brightly in the role of the fickle woman through whom tragedy will occur. But in this trio, there is a leading figure. An actress whose destiny has just changed on May 18, 2024, Karla Sofia Gascon who, like the character she plays, was also a man before her transition in 2018. As soon as she appears on screen, everything takes on a life of its own. another dimension. His character, the setting, his partners, the story that is told to us. This evening, the 2024 Cannes Film Festival has just found its favorite. The one to which all the other films in the competition will now be compared. Jacques Audiard has never been so close to winning his second Palme!

By Jacques Audiard. With Karla Sofia Gascón, Zoé Saldana, Selena Gomez… Duration: 2h10. Released August 28, 2024


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