Cannes 2024: Emilia Pérez, Three Kilometers to the End of the World, Caught by the Tides | Festivals & Awards

So, on some level, “Emilia Pérez” is worth appreciating as a filmmaker’s effort to completely shift gears. Audiard fully commits himself to a widescreen, mainly Spanish-language production that goes for broke: There’s a musical number about vaginoplasty and rhinoplasty; soon after, there is a song in which Rita tries to convince a doctor in Tel Aviv (Mark Ivanir) to travel to Mexico to meet her client. The film further follows the friendship that forms between Rita and the former drug kingpin, Emilia Pérez (Karla Sofía Gascón), after they reconnect four years later in London. (Gascón makes the most of the scene in which she reveals her identity to an unrecognizing Rita; she could well be in the conversation for the festival’s best-actress prize.) Emilia attempts to repent for past killings and to reunite with her wife (Selena Gomez) and children. Having spent years living in a snow-globe Switzerland, they don’t know who Emilia is, either, and it’s in these twisty family scenes—with Emilia taking on the role of aunt to her own kids—that the film most resembles Almodóvar.

But again, if this were actually an Almodóvar film, it would seem a lot less unexpected. In Audiard’s hands, it looks like a big swing: a movie willing to risk looking ludicrous in pursuit of operatic ambitions. If “Emilia Pérez” is a folly, it is, par for the course for this director, an impersonal one. This becomes most apparent in the second half, once the novelty of the film’s style has worn off and Audiard must dutifully attend to the mechanics of the plot.

For a modern opera that successfully went big and weird, one need only look back to Cannes three years ago with “Annette,” Leos Carax’s collaboration with Sparks. And for a folly—well, we just had one two days ago with “Megalopolis,” and the comparison is instructive. For everything about it that might be clunky or inert, “Megalopolis” feels like a movie that poured straight out of Francis Ford Coppola’s mind and onto the screen; it teems with his private preoccupations—historical, political, literary, cinematic. “Emilia Pérez” has more polish and pizzazz, but it feels like something that Audiard worked on as a challenge, not an obsession.

Likewise, “Three Kilometers to the End of the World” is a perfectly solid drama with a naggingly machine-tooled quality. Directed by Emanuel Parvu, who has a longer résumé as an actor (2022’s “Miracle”) than as a director, the film centers on a slowly building crisis that fits in comfortably with the Romanian New Wave films of the past two decades. Adi (Ciprian Chiujdea), a 17-year-old boy, is violently attacked one night. But efforts to arrest the culprits run into a series of investigative and bureaucratic snags. Then, it becomes clear that Adi was beaten because he is gay. This revelation, news to his parents (Bogdan Dumitrache and Laura Vasiliu), suddenly shifts the priorities of the town’s homophobic residents. Who cares about holding violent thugs accountable when there is—horror—a gay person who needs to be dealt with?

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