The year’s first major film festival has officially come to a close, and thanks to an eclectic list of films and a Jury consisting of such varied artists as Alejandro González Iñárritu, Robin Campillo, Maimouna N’Diaye, Elle Fanning, Yorgos Lanthimos, Pawel Pawlikowski, Kelly Reichardt, and Alice Rohrwacher, things have come to an interesting conclusion as a wide variety of new films will face off for critical and award acclaim later this year.
After some tough deliberations, the jury made the unanimous (and minorly surprising) decision to award Parasite the Palme d’Or. The newest film by Snowpiercer and Okja director Bong Joon-ho, Parasite was discussed as a potential winner, but the bizarre, viciously funny film about class relations in South Korea was not expected to become the first Korean film to win the coveted award. Most critics and pundits expected that award to go to Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a steamy drama about Marianne, a young painter hired to paint a young woman’s portrait to help elicit marriage proposals, but ends up falling in love with the woman herself. While the film didn’t win the top prize as was expected, it still won the highly respected Best Screenplay award for Sciamma. The other major Palme contender was Pedro Almodóvar’s personal, witty, and moving self-reflection Pain and Glory, which is positioning itself as a major awards player this fall, especially for Best Actor winner Antonio Banderas. The Best Actress prize went to Emily Beecham for her role as Alice in the British drama Little Joe, while Best Director went to Cannes favorites Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for their newest political drama, Young Ahmed (the film lacks the usual high praises for the duo behind The Son, The Kid With a Bike, and Two Days, One Night, but Cannes is gonna Cannes). Meanwhile, the Grand Prix runner-up prize was awarded to Mati Diop for Atlantique, the first black woman to appear In Competition at Cannes. Her film follows a group of underpaid workers who take to the sea to find a brighter future. And the third place award for the Jury Prize was split between two films in an increasingly-common tie by the Cannes Jury. The first film, Bacurau, is a Weird Western (a horror-Western hybrid) directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles and following a small town in Brazil as it is beset by strange happenings following the death of its matriarch. The second film, Les Misérables, surprisingly has little to do with the famous book of the same name, and instead tells the story of the 2005 Parisian riots, and resolves around three members of the anti-crime brigade who find themselves overrun in the chaos. It is directed by Ladj Ly, and was one of the talks of the festival.
Outside of the awarded films, several other works managed to find acclaim with both the juries and the critics. Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, a three-hour introspection on a Blessed Catholic Patron who refused to join the Nazi Party when they invaded Austria in the 1930s, has been hailed as one of the director’s best works. Quentin Tarantino launched Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood to much acclaim, and could be looking at his first Best Director statue at the Oscars (Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie also received much acclaim). Out of competition, Rocketman received wild acclaim for its flamboyant look at Elton John’s life (I have seen it and it’s actually pretty good!), Ken Loach received decent reviews for his follow-up to I, Daniel Blake (a previous Palme winner), Sorry We Missed You. The VVitch director David Eggers returned with another creepy horror film, The Lighthouse, which was probably the most acclaimed film out of Cannes besides Portrait of a Lady, and should serve as a nice niche piece for Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. And after a few misses over the last few years, Xavier Dolan has returned to greatness once again with the gay love story Matthias & Maxime. Oh, and while we’re talking about the most talked about films, it’s worth noting that Blue Is The Warmest Colour director Abdellatif Kechiche returned to cannes with the three-and-a-half hour sexual thriller Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo, which was met with universally bad reviews, thanks to its excessive portrayal of sex and bare butts. It sounds like one of those terrible films you must see.
You can see the full list of winners below, and I’ll try to have an article up reflecting on what these wins mean for the Oscar race in the next few weeks. At the very least, they should affect the International Feature race pretty significantly.
Palme d’Or: Parasite by Bong Joon-ho
Grand Prix: Atlantique by Mati Diop
Best Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne – Young Ahmed
Best Actor: Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Best Actress: Emily Beecham – Little Joe
Best Screenplay: Céline Sciamma – Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Jury Prize: Bacurau by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles AND Les Misérables by Ladj Ly (TIE)
Special Mention: It Must Be Heaven by Elia Suleiman