Earlier this week, the most prestigious film festival in the world wrapped up - Cannes Film Festival ended its 70th edition with an awards ceremony on Sunday. The Oscars may dominate awards talk in regard to popular North American cinema, but the awards revealed at Cannes, especially the much-coveted Palme d’Or, tend to influence the rest of the year for cinephiles with international interests. To even earn a spot in the line-up at the festival is typically an indicator of high quality, but the awards help those of us who weren’t invited to the exclusive festival sift through the films and direct our focus toward what may be the cream of the crop.
The “In Competition” program of the festival is the main slate of films. The main awards handed out are selected from these films and judged by a jury of nine international figures with a passion for cinema. This year’s Jury President was Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar (Volver). The other eight Jury Members were German filmmaker Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann), Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (I Am Not Madame Bovary), South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden), American actress Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), French actress/filmmaker Agnès Jaoui (The Taste of Others), American actor Will Smith (Ali), Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), and French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared (The English Patient). These are the films they awarded:
The most highly-anticipated award at Cannes Film Festival, or any festival, is the Palme d’Or, given to the best film in competition. Past winners of the award include Carol Reed’s The Third Man, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and Michael Haneke’s Amour. Needless to say, award-winners are in good company. This year, the award went to Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s film The Square. The film is a nearly two-and-a-half-hour comedy of manners, depicting the chaos which unfolds surrounding an art installation, co-starring Elizabeth Moss and Dominic West. If it matches the ruthless satire of Östlund’s last film, Force Majeure (which screened in Carbon Arc's 2014 fall season), it is sure to induce as many cringes as it provokes thoughts.
After the Palme d’Or, the Grand Prix is essentially a second-place prize given to the runner-up for best film in competition. That being said, the Grand Prix winner often ends up overshadowing the film that bested it; past winners include Lázsló Nemes' gripping Holocaust drama Son of Saul, Jacques Audiard’s critically-acclaimed prison drama A Prophet, and Jury Member Park Chan-wook’s own 2004 film Oldboy. This year the Grand Prix went to Robin Campillo’s film 120 Beats per Minute. The film, a moving drama following a group of AIDS activists in the Paris chapter of ACT UP’s 1990s movement, was beloved by critics and predicted by many to be the prime contender for the Palme. In fact, the film also won the FIPRESCI Prize, the award given to the favourite film of the critics’ organization. Campillo is no stranger to Cannes; he co-wrote and edited The Class, which won the Palme in 2008.
The jury chooses one more film in competition to award third place. Third place may sound like a consolation prize; it’s not. Past winners of the award include Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura, and David Cronenberg’s Crash. Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film Loveless took home the prize this year. The film is a family drama and critique of Russian society. This isn’t Zvyagintsev’s first time at the festival; his 2014 film Leviathan took home the Best Screenplay award (and also screened in Carbon Arc's 2015 winter season).
You may have picked up on a trend in all of the winners mentioned so far; Cannes tends to be a bit of a boys’ club. So far, only one woman has ever directed a film that took home the Palme d’Or, Jane Campion’s 1993 drama The Piano. There was much buzz this year that a female filmmaker, like Sofia Coppola or Lynne Ramsay, may finally become the second. Unfortunately, it did not happen this way. However, Coppola did end up receiving Best Director for her new film The Beguiled, becoming the first woman to do so since 1961 (Yuliya Solntseva for Chronicle of Flaming Years), and only the second ever. Her film is a feminist revision of the 1971 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood thriller of the same name.
Lynne Ramsay may have been shut out of the Palme and Director awards, but she did nab Best Screenplay for her drama/thriller You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix entering the heart of darkness while trying to save his daughter from a sex trafficking ring. Ramsay shared the award in a tie with Greek writers Efthymis Filippou (another Carbon Arc alum, having written Chevalier) and Yorgos Lanthimos for their absurd dark drama The Killing of a Sacred Deer, starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.
For her work in filmmaker Fatih Akin’s film In the Fade, Diane Kruger was awarded Best Actress. Kruger stars as a woman seeking revenge after he husband and son are killed in a bombing. Critics were a bit mixed on the film, but praised Kruger’s performance, which also marked her first time acting in German.
Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here didn’t just garner the award for Best Screenplay; it also earned Best Actor for its leading man, Joaquin Phoenix. This is Phoenix’s first time winning the award, but not his first time at the festival. He has had several films at Cannes in the past, including The Immigrant in 2013 (which also later screened at Carbon Arc).
70th Anniversary Award
To celebrate the festival’s 70th anniversary, the Jury also gave a special award to actress Nicole Kidman. In the midst of an illustrious career, Kidman starred in three movies premiering at Cannes this year (The Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, How to Talk to Girls at Parties) as well as Jane Campion’s miniseries Top of the Lake: China Girl, also premiering at the festival.
A number of ground-breaking films screen outside of the festival’s main competition each year. These films are also eligible for various prizes not chosen by the Jury. The following are just a few of these awards:
The Camera d’Or goes to the best first feature film screened at the festival. Filmmakers who have won in the past include Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise), Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!), Mirnada July (Me and You and Everyone We Know), and Steve McQueen (Hunger). This year the prize went to Léonor Sérraille’s Montparnasse Bienvenue, a French screwball comedy about a woman’s riotous downfall in the aftermath of a relationship.
Golden Eye Documentary Prize
At 88 years old (in fact, she turned 89 this week), Agnès Varda is still making award winning films, 62 years after her debut film La Pointe Courte. At that time, Varda was unfamiliar with most cinema. Since then, she unofficially kicked off one the most important movements in history as “ the mother of the French New Wave”, married another member of that movement (director Jacques Demy), and directed several renowned classics (Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond, The Gleaners & I, among others). This year, she teamed up with street artist and co-director JR, to make a documentary following the unlikely dynamic duo as they travel France and make art. The result, Visages, Villages won the prize for best documentary at Cannes. Perhaps more importantly, Varda’s cat also took home the Palme de Whiskers.
Un Certain Regard Prize
One of the most important sections of the festival outside of the competition is Un Certain Regard, containing 20 works with unusual approaches to filmmaking. The prize for the best film in this section went to Mohammad Rasoulof’s film A Man of Integrity. In 2011 the Iranian filmmaker won Best Director in Un Certain Regard for his film Goodbye, and in 2013 his film Manuscripts Don’t Burn won the FIPRESCI critics’ prize in the same section. Unfortunately, the filmmaker was arrested in 2010 alongside compatriot director Jafar Panahi, and his films are unlikely to be shown in his own country.
To browse all of the award-winning films, head to Cannes’ website. Keep your eyes peeled for some of them as they are released, go to other film festivals, and maybe even come to Carbon Arc!