Sunday, 28 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Awards & Comments

The jury has just handed over the awards at the Cannes Film Festivals. This year more than ever, there has been a real split between the French and the international press. The former favoured 120 Battements Par Minute and The Day After, the latter Loveless, The Square and (to a lesser extent), The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and the jury was more in tune with them. The real surprise came not so much from the films that featured in the list of awards, more in the order they were given awards for.

As for last year, I did not predict a single award correctly, although I had one nearly right as I knew Nicole Kidman would not leave empty-handed, she was just rewarded in an unexpected and rather brilliant way. I did have most of the winning films in my list of predictions, but had the actual awards they received the wrong way round.

Jury prize: Loveless by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Most of us expected the Russian film to receive a bigger award, as it was one of the highest rated films by the critics, and so did its director Andrey Zvyagintsev, as he came on stage visibly stunned and struggling to find his words at first.

Best Director: Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled

The American director is the second woman only to receive its prize, although, as jury member Fan Bingbing was quick to point out, she won because she deserved it, not because of some agenda. A well deserved prize indeed, for the way Sofia Coppola conjures up an impressive Southern Gothic atmosphere of repression in soft focus, and for the great performances she elicits from her cast.

Best Script: joint winners Lynne Ramsay for You Were Really Never Here and Yorgos Lanthimos for The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Both awards came as a surprise to me. Lynne Ramsay would have been more deserving of a directing prize (and why not split it with Sofia Coppola, if the jury was going to give joint prizes!) as it truly is the most striking aspect of her film. As for the Greek maverick, while his film was my favourite of the competition, I had deemed it too dark to win the favours of the jury. I am glad to have been proven wrong.

Best Actress: Diane Kruger for In The Fade

In The Fade was one of the worst films of the competition, crass, manipulative, with an arthouse camp classic side to it. I like Diane Kruger a lot as an actress, and while I am pleased to see her rewarded, her performance, all in hysterics and embarrassing dialogues, is the least interesting one she had done in many years. Nicole Kidman was so much more deserving, which brings me to the next award...

70th Anniversary Award: Nicole Kidman

Jury sometimes give out some random, unusual prizes and round years are always an excuse to give one more award. I love how no films was specified when Nicole Kidman received this award, even though she had 2 in competition (and one more out of competition as well as a TV series), she was just rewarded for being Nicole Kidman, which frankly is how it should be.

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix for You Were Really Never Here

As soon as the press saw the Lynne Ramsay experimental thriller, we knew Joaquin Phoenix had gone to the front of the queue, for its brooding, intense and committed performance, and this prize is the crowning glory of his always interesting and unpredictable career.

Grand Prix: 120 Battements Par Minute by Robin Campillo

Many in the French medias expected this film to go all the way to the top, but as much as I love it, I knew that the dryness of certain sections and its subject matter would make a consensus tricky. Jury President Pedro Almodovar loved, loved this film as he told us at the jury press conference, breaking down in tears as he recalled the fight it evoked, but a jury is a democratic process, and even as the lead of the jury, he was only able to push it to runner-up

Palme d'Or: The Square by Ruben Östlund

While I had been disappointed by the Swedish director previous effort, Force Majeure (2014), which I found obvious and one note, I was blown away by The Square, in a way that took me by surprise, a more accomplished, stranger yet more involving effort, that the jury members unanimously loved for its richness, according to Pedro Almodovar. We all expected it to receive an award, but few, if any of us saw it go all the way to the top prize, as for all its very positive reviews it had quite a few detractors too. While he was a fan too, I do wonder how Pedro Almodovar felt handing over the Palme d'Or to a fairly young director for its third film while himself has yet to receive it, despite countless films in competition and such an illustrious career...

The jury has been bold, took some risks this year, and was not afraid to give the top prize to a controversial film, which is truly refreshing considering the films that won the Palme d'Or the last two years. Yes it will most certainly be criticised for it, but that is a much more interesting approach than a soft consensus. Will Smith unexpectedly waxing lyrical about Jupiter's Moon at the press conference, Kornél Mundruczó's modern and rather experimental was one of those unexpected moments that define Cannes's magic. The film did leave empty-handed though as he was its only champion!

Post by Laurent de Alberti

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