Where Sean Baker is from

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American director Sean Baker won the Palme d’Or at Cannes on Saturday for Anoraa comedy that tells the story of Anora (Mikey Madison), a sex worker who works in a New York club, and her relationship with Ivan (Mark Eydelshteyn), a twenty-year-old Russian who comes from a family of rich oligarchs who tries to hinder their relationship in any way.

Anora it was welcomed favorably by the people involved in the industry who saw it as a preview at the festival. The film critic of BBC Nicholas Barber awarded ad Anora a score of four stars out of five, describing it as a film that alternates “energy and laugh-out-loud moments”, while Damon Wise of Deadline wrote that «it is a three-part film that accelerates with great speed, travels at high altitude for a surprisingly long time, then comes back down to earth with a deeply moving and almost unbearably melancholic ending».

Baker is a director appreciated for his ability to make films with low budgets, and even when the funding he has at his disposal is a little more substantial he still maintains a style close to that of independent cinema. The ones he has made in the last ten years have generally received very positive reviews and have been praised for some peculiarities, such as the attention to photography, the talent in managing debuting actors and actresses who sometimes lack any experience in cinema and the ability to talk about sex and the people who work with sex in an acute and entertaining way.

Baker is 53 years old and began his film career in 2000 when he was 29 with the film Four Letter Words (2000), which was followed Take Out (2004), Prince of Broadway (2008), Starlet (2012) and his three most famous films, Tangerines (2015), A dream called Florida (2017) e RedRocket (2021).

At the beginning of his career, to preserve the limited resources he had at his disposal, Baker made do as best he could and supervised every aspect of the making of the films: he shot the scenes, wrote the screenplays and dialogues and also took care of some of the editing. The first film in which he could afford to pay a professional actress (Dree Hemingway) it was Starlet.

On Variety Peter Debruge wrote that, although at first glance Anora could be perceived as a pretentious film that wants to present itself at all costs as subversive and disturbing, in reality it is perfectly in line with the recurring themes of Baker’s filmography, which tells stories of people who have been working with sex for about ten years. years. According to Debruge, Anora underlines once again how for Baker «sex work is work in all respects, and that it is more central to society than society itself wants to admit».

In fact, almost all of his films feature people who work with sex, for example Starletwhich tells the story of an actress at the beginning of her career in porn, and the most famous Tangerines, A dream called Florida And RedRocket.

Tangerines was released in 2015 and among other things stood out for the peculiarity of having been shot almost entirely with three iPhone 5s, a remedy that Baker had to resort to due to the very limited budget he had available. She talks about Sin-Dee and Alexandra, two transgender prostitutes who go in search of her former boyfriend, who had cheated on her while she was in prison.

A dream called Florida was presented in 2017 in Cannes, where it was very well received. It’s about some children and some adults who live or work in a motel in Orlando, Florida, near Disney World. Except that the amusement park is almost never seen, because the motel is frequented by poor people with various types of problems.

There are three main characters: a mother, her six-year-old daughter and the motel manager. The characters are played in order by Bria Vinaite, a Lithuanian actress whom Baker discovered on Instagram, by a little girl born in 2010 (Brooklynn Prince) and by Willem Dafoe. Halley lives alone with her daughter and her main problem is finding the money to pay for the room from time to time (38 dollars a night): to do this she begins to prostitute herself.

At a certain point in the film Halley and Moonee try to sell perfumes, found at a low price, to tourists outside a luxury hotel. The tourists in that scene are not actors, but real tourists who didn’t know they were being filmed. For that choice (and for other reasons, such as the fact that the motel really exists and that some of its real employees and guests starred in the film), critics often describe A dream called Florida like a film with something neorealist.

It was filmed on a higher budget than that of Tangerinesbut still modest when compared to the big Hollywood productions: it cost a total of two million dollars and was shot on film, in analogue (except for the last scene, shot with an iPhone).

RedRocket instead, it came out three years ago: it’s about a former porn actor and “suitcase pimp” (a man who has both professional and romantic relationships with porn actresses) who returns to the Texas town where he grew up and meets a seventeen-year-old who he thinks could make it big in world of porn, so as to allow him in turn to return to the business. While not directly showing the behind the scenes of porn, RedRocket he was appreciated for the brilliance of his screenplay and for his attempt to make viewers reflect on the perception of sex, and partly of pornography, outside of certain contexts.

 
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