Cannes 2024: The winners, the standing ovations, the big premieres and the movies you’ll be watching

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
6 Min Read
Anora won Cannes Film Festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.
Anora won Cannes Film Festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or. Credit: Supplied

Every year in May, the beautiful, the glamorous and the self-important flock to Cannes, a city on the French Riviera and host to one of the most prestigious film festivals on the calendar.

There’s never any shortage of star wattage as actors, filmmakers and cashed-up producers converge, decked out in glittering gowns and tuxedos as they walk the red carpet or party on hired yachts.

The 2024 event was no different with the likes of Cate Blanchett, Demi Moore, Chris Hemsworth, Kevin Costner, Isabelle Huppert and Michelle Yeoh strutting their stuff on the Promenade de la Croisette.

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It was also, of course, about the movies. With 22 in the official competition for Cannes’ highest award, the Palme d’Or, the attention was mostly on which films were a hit and which were a fizzer.

American director Sean Baker took out the top prize for risque comedy Anora took home the top prize. The film is about a sex worker who marries a Russian oligarch. Accepting the award from George Lucas onstage, Baker said, “I really don’t know what’s happening right now”.

Director Sean Baker
Sean Baker displays the Palme d'Or for the film Anora, at the 77th Cannes film festival. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

He dedicated his Palme d’Or to “sex workers past, present and future - this is for you”. Baker’s previous most recent project was Red Rocket, a riotous movie about a retired porn star. He is also known for coming-of-age film The Florida Project and Tangerine, the latter was about a transgender sex worker and the movie was shot on an iPhone.

Baker said he made his movies to be seen in cinemas. Of Anora, he added, “This isn’t exactly a mainstream movie. Hopefully it reminds mainstream audiences that these films exist.”

Elsewhere in the Cannes Film Festival prizes, Iranian film The Seed of the Sacred Fig won a special award from the Palme d’Or jury while the Grand Prix, the festival’s second highest honour, went to Indian director Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine As Light.

Musical Emilia Perez won the jury prize as well as best actress. Unusually, the best actress gong was awarded to the film’s four lead cast - Adriana Paz, Karla Sofia Gascon, Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldana. Jesse Plemons won best actor for Kinds of Kindness.

Un Certain Regarde went to Chinese film Black Dog by director Guan Hu while the Camera d’Or, awarded to a first feature, was picked up by Ingmar Bergman’s grandson, Halfdan Ullmann Tondell. for Armand.

Cannes’ big, buzzy premieres included Costner’s three-hour long western Horizon: An American Saga, the first of four promised movies. He mortgaged one of his estates to self-finance the $US100 million ($151m) budget. It also stars Sienna Miller and Abbey Lee, and is an expansive story following a raft of characters making the perilous journey west at the end of the American Civil War.

horizon
The big, buzzy premieres included Costner’s three-hour long western Horizon: An American Saga, the first of four promised movies. Credit: Warner Bros/YouTube

The reviews ranged from mixed to negative, but that won’t stop Costner fans, especially those of his popular TV drama Yellowstone, flock to see him riding yet another horse. Australian distributor Madman bought the local rights with a view to a July 4 release.

Madman also secured the Australian rights to Megalopolis, another self-funded dream project, this time from Francis Ford Coppola, who had the idea for it while he was making Apocalypse Now in the late-1970s. Coppola put up the $181m production budget, funded from the partial sale of his vineyard,

Starring Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel and Giancarlo Esposito, the sci-fi drama is set in an alternate version of New York City that evokes the aesthetic and ruthless power plays of ancient Rome. Driver’s character is named Cesar Catilina. Critics have pointed to the film’s convoluted, near-indecipherable plot, but seem happy that at least the ambitious but bonkers movie exists.

Cannes has a well-worn tradition of timing the standing ovation. Megalopolis got a seven-minute one.

Adam Driver and Nathalie Emmanuel in Megalopolis.
Adam Driver and Nathalie Emmanuel in Megalopolis. Credit: Supplied

More than any other festival in the world, or your garden variety premiere, the standing ovation is a big deal at Cannes, as if a movie’s success — or at least the enthusiasm of the headlines — is measured by how long attendees remained standing, hands clapping while the cast and crew awkwardly bask in the adulation.

The record for the longest standing ovation in Cannes history belongs to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which clocked up 22 minutes. It’s not a perfect, unimpeachable metric, and not just because reports of how long they last vary wildly. A film’s ultimate commercial success often have no correlation to its Cannes ovation but it’s like a sport for the festival.

This year, Horizon was reported as having been anywhere between seven minutes (pretty standard for Cannes) to 11 minutes.

But the longest ovation in 2024 went to The Substance, a gory body horror film starring Demi Moore as a celebrity who undergoes a medical procedure to clone a younger version (Margaret Qualley) of herself. The audience were on their feet for 13 minutes and The Substance has already been hailed by some as the most significant role Moore has had in years.

Demi Moore in The Substance.
Demi Moore in The Substance. Credit: Supplied

The other surprise was Emilia Perez, which received an 11-minute standing ovation. The musical crime comedy is from Jacques Audiard, the French filmmaker behind A Prophet, and stars Spanish actor Karla Sofia Gascon as a Mexican cartel leader who wants to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Selena Gomez plays his unsuspecting wife with Zoe Saldana as his lawyer. Netflix is expected to buy the movie, but only for the US and UK.

George Miller’s Mad Max prequel Furiosa nabbed a seven-minute clap-fest for its rev-head, visceral action sequences and ripper performances from Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Burke. The film opened in cinemas this week.

Given Donald Trump’s elastic relationship to truth, perhaps it’s not surprising that reports of the standing ovation time for The Apprentice vary from eight to 11 minutes, depending on who you believe.

Starring Sebastian Stan as a young Trump, The Apprentice is an origin story for a villain and charts the influence of right-wing lawyer Roy Cohn on the not-yet real estate mogul. A rape scene prompted audible gasps from the audience and while the movie didn’t impress critics, Stan, Jeremy Strong and Maria Bakalova drew wide praise for their performances.

Nicolas Cage’s WA-shot The Surfer made it to a six-minute ovation after the star revved up the crowd. Better still was the low-budget thriller earned rave reviews, which is far more important than how long people clapped.

Nicolas Cage filmed The Surfer in WA.
Nicolas Cage filmed The Surfer in WA. Credit: Supplied

The lukewarm ovations in the three-minute range went to two highly acclaimed filmmakers, Paul Schrader and David Cronenberg.

Schrader premiered Oh, Canada, his first collaboration with Richard Gere since their 1980 thriller American Gigolo. The film was adapted from a Russell Banks novel and tells the story of a Canadian-American writer who dodged the Vietnam War draft in his youth. Now terminally ill, he agrees to tell his story to documentary makers. Gere plays the writer with Jacob Elordi in the role in flashbacks.

The frequently divisive Cronenberg’s The Shrouds is in the official competition and stars French actor Vincent Cassel as a businessman and widower who creates a gadget which allows those consumed with grief to see their departed loved ones decompose in real time.

Cate Blanchett’s apocalypse comedy Rumours, directed by the triumvirate of Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, clocked up a four-minute ovation for the story of a group of political leaders (Blanchett plays the German Chancellor) who get lost in the woods with no phone signal while trying to draft a statement. There are also zombies.

The festival also debuted new movies from filmmakers Andrea Arnold (Bird), Paolo Sorrentino (Pathenope), Sean Baker (Anora) and Yorgos Lanthimos (Kinds of Kindness).

American director, writer and actor Greta Gerwig served as the jury president for the Palme d’Or race, alongside judges including actors Omar Sy, Eva Green, Lily Gladstone and filmmakers Nadine Labaki and Hirokazu Kore-eda.

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