Sean Baker’s ‘Red Rocket’ in Competition at Cannes

LOS ANGELES — Filmmaker Sean Baker’s new film “Red Rocket,” described as a comedic drama about a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown, is playing in competition this month at the Cannes Film Festival.

Baker is known for “The Florida Project,” which earned an Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe, and acclaimed indie drama “Tangerine,” which was filmed entirely with three iPhone 5s smartphones.

It’s not Baker’s first time exploring the fringes of adult; in 2012, he released the indie drama “Starlet,” which follows an unlikely friendship that develops between an elderly widow and an aimless porn starlet. He and co-writer Chris Bergoch spoke to XBIZ about the film’s adult biz cameos in April 2012.

“Red Rocket” features Simon Rex in the leading role; as XBIZ has reported, in the early ’90s, under the name “Sebastian,” Rex shot two solo masturbation scenes and posed nude for Brad Posey’s boutique studio Club 1821 several years before the performer shot to mainstream fame as an MTV VJ, model, actor and comedian-rapper.

The scant Club 1821 footage was repackaged continually for more than a decade; Rex himself eventually learned to poke fun at the experience. (“I guess that’s why I became a dirty rapper and fuckin’ comedic actor,” he told an interviewer in 2014. “Because after you do that, you’re fearless… I got no skeletons in my closet now.”)

The official Cannes synopsis describes “Red Rocket” as “an audacious new film… a darkly funny, raw and humane portrait of a uniquely American hustler and a hometown that barely tolerates him” with “a magnetic, live-wire performance” from Rex.

IndieWire has noted the title is one of the festival’s “12 most anticipated films.”

“Baker’s neorealist approach to unconventional movie characters is always a thrilling experience… Here’s hoping that the filmmaker’s ever-absorbing approach to frantic characters continues to deliver a memorable ride,” noted the site in its write-up.

Distributor A24 picked up U.S. distro rights earlier this year.

Image: A24

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