Emilia Perez film lights up Cannes Mexican drug lord musical gonzo trans Film Festival

Emilia Perez film lights up Cannes Mexican drug lord musical gonzo

In theory, Jacques Audiard’s highly anticipated Cannes Film Festival submission, “Emilia Perez,” might not appear to be a promising concept for a film.

The movie, which debuted on Saturday at Cannes, may well be the first film to draw sincere comparisons to both “Sicario” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” — and that’s just scratching the surface.

Selena Gomez

Zoe Saldaña takes on the role of Rita, a lawyer from Mexico City, enlisted by the cartel leader Manitas to assist him in escaping to undergo gender confirmation surgery. This sets the stage for a connection that evolves between Rita and Emilia Perez (played by Karla Sofía Gascón).

Years later, Emilia reappears, assuming the guise of Manitas’ sister, to stay near her children, who now reside with her former spouse (portrayed by Selena Gomez).

Despite its unconventional premise, or perhaps because of it, “Emilia Perez” injected a burst of energy into Cannes midway through the festival. While not every critic has fallen for its melodramatic flair, there was still applause following the film’s press screening.

Emilia Perez

Audiard told reporters on Sunday that he perceived the film as akin to an opera. The versatile French director behind acclaimed works like “A Prophet,” “Rust and Bone, and the 2015 Cannes Palme d’Or recipient “Dheepan revealed that the concept initially sparked while he was reading a novel featuring a chapter about a narco trafficker aspiring to alter his identity. From this inspiration, Audiard crafted a narrative that ebbs and flows, reminiscent of a telenovela.

To immerse yourself in a film by Jacques, you’ve got to embrace his unique brand of madness,” Gascón remarked with a laugh.

Although the film features notable stars like Gomez and Saldaña, it’s Gascón who steals the spotlight. The 52-year-old transgender actor delivers a standout performance as both the ruthless Manitas, characterized by a dental grill, and the warm, lively Emilia. Their portrayal of these two contrasting roles showcases striking physical transformations.

Musical Score

It was challenging initially. I was hesitant about taking on the role of Manitas. I was only interested in portraying Emilia. It took me several months to convince myself that I could tackle both roles,” Gascón explained. “At one stage, there was uncertainty about who would portray the two characters, but eventually, it became clear that it would be me.

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Despite its audacious premise, “Emilia Perez” resonates with remarkable sincerity. The film, delving into themes of personal transformation, chronicles the journey of Rita and Emilia across years and various countries. The musical score is crafted by French pop artist Camille, with Clément Docul contributing to it and Gomez seizing a moment at the microphone in a karaoke bar.

Gascón expressed her desire on Sunday for Emilia to be viewed not solely as a transgender character.

“Trans individuals deserve to be treated just like anyone else. I’m neither superior nor inferior to anyone else. We should be accepted for who we are,” said Gascón. “We have agency over our bodies, and we should be free to make changes according to our own desires.

The narrative shifts and contrasting tones found in “Emilia Perez” might be overwhelming for some, but for Audiard, this was part of the allure.

‘I’m deeply unsettled by the issues in Mexico — the prevalence of missing individuals and the unsafe regions that persist,’ the director shared. ‘I was driven by a desire to create a musical, and what better way to juxtapose this than against the backdrop of a tragedy?

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