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Cannes Awards Wrap: How George Miller’s Jury Picked the Winners — And Losers

Cannes Awards Wrap: How George Miller's Jury Picked the Winners — And Losers

As juror László Nemes (“Son of Saul”) said at the start of the Cannes Film Festival, juries are by their nature random. One thing you can count on is that the actors on the jury will shift the conversation. From the start, this year’s actors said they were looking for emotion. And that’s what the two top winners boast in abundance. “It was a collective decision,” said Miller of his “nine-headed beast,” describing the awards process as like creating a painting. “We looked at every variable, it’s not like ticking off a vote for the Oscars…we were looking at the awards like a totality. It took so much time, so much rigor, it was exhausting, emotionally, as everyone was talking so passionately.”

Thanks to jury chief Miller, it was Mel Gibson (whose “Blood Father” played well as a Cannes midnight movie) who presented the Palme d’Or to 79-year-old British director Ken Loach, winning for the second time (2006’s “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”); he’s won many other prizes over 18 films selected for Cannes. By far the most emotional movie of the festival, “I, Daniel Blake” (Sundance Selects) brought audiences to wrenching tears, including this writer. Based on research into England’s public welfare crisis, the film is a fictionalized story set in Newcastle about a joiner (Dave Johns) who can’t seem to convince the state to give him the disability he needs after a heart condition makes it impossible for him to work.

“The festival is very important for the future of cinema,” said Loach. “When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage. We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”

READ MORE: The 2016 Indiewire Cannes Bible: Every Review, Interview and News Item Posted During the Festival

Many critics did not respond to Loach’s overtly political film because they didn’t think he was doing anything different from what he had done before. But they really didn’t like Xavier Dolan’s very theatrical “It’s Only the End of the World,” which won the consolation prize, the Grand Prix, which means that the jury responded very differently to this heartfelt adaptation of a play about a dysfunctional family, who scream in French in extreme closeup. (Dolan won the jury prize in 2014 for “Mommy.”)

“Thank you for feeling the emotions of the film,” said Dolan (who attacked the critical reaction to his film) in a speech during which he cried, lips trembling, and chewed on his hands. Maybe it will now be picked up for the U.S., although it won’t be a crowdpleaser.

Co-winner of the director prize, Romanian Cristian Mungiu (“Graduation”), had also won the Palme d’Or, for 2007’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days,” and his actresses shared the Actress prize for “Beyond the Hills.” Mungiu’s “Graduation” (Sundance Selects) sends a controlling father (Adrian Titieni) into a tailspin when his long-held post-graduation plans for his daughter (Maria Dragus) go terribly awry. Mungiu points out each individual’s role in doing the right thing when corruption and compromise often rule the day.

Co-winner Olivier Assayas, on the other hand, accepted his first Cannes award for “Personal Shopper” (IFC Films), his second English-language film starring Kristen Stewart (Cesar winner for “Clouds of Sils Maria”), whose character acquires fashionable clothes for a rich client. She tries to use her skills as a medium to communicate with her twin brother, who has recently died, when mysterious texts suddenly appear on her iPhone. It was a great Cannes for Stewart, who was well-received in Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” (Amazon) as well, and for IFC/Sundance Selects, which is releasing “I, Daniel Blake,” “Graduation” and “Personal Shopper.”

Those who thought that the women who dominated the Cannes would come home with multiple awards were sorely disappointed. British director Andrea Arnold took home the jury prize for the third time for her daring American road movie “American Honey” (A24), a coming of age story starring Shia LaBeouf and unknown Sasha Lane, making Arnold three for three at the fest after 2006’s “Red Road” and 2009’s “Fish Tank.”

Critics adored the film, which was shaped by the American midwestern landscape as well as the editing room. The film was vastly different from its original script and unlike anything else at Cannes this year. “Five hours ago I was sitting in my neighbor’s garden drinking tea,” Arnold said in her acceptance speech, thanking her cast and crew for the “team effort” on their “great adventure.”

Meanwhile, critics’ fave and the winner by a mile of the Screen International Critics Poll (see below), German director Maren Ade’s exquisite father-daughter comedy “Toni Erdmann” (Sony Pictures Classics), came home empty-handed. At the jury press conference jury chief Miller cited a “passionate” and long jury deliberation (which Mikkelsen described as “difficult”) on 21 films, directors, writers and many more actors as well as arcane jury rules that demand that the top three winners cannot win a second prize. Miller and Mads Mikkelsen both stated that they judged the films on their excellence, not on the sex of who directed them. “Each film was judged on its merits,” said Miller. “Filmmaking is filmmaking. It did not come up, we were looking at other issues.”

The first-time director prize went to “Divines,” a gangster thriller and female buddy movie directed by Houda Benyamina (Director’s Fortnight).

The jury defended the choice of Best Actress Jaclyn Jose for “Ma’ Rosa,” from Philippine director Brillante Mendoza, which some critics had suggested was a supporting role in a sprawling ensemble. “The critics were wrong,” said Donald Sutherland. “It’s a big-time leading role.”

“She’s the film,” said Arnaud Desplechin. “She broke my heart.”

The jury admitted that there were many strong actress contenders including “I, Daniel Blake”‘s Hayley Squires and Romanian actress Maria Dragus (“Graduation”), but they couldn’t award more than one prize for winners of the top three awards.

Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman” (Amazon/Cohen Media) was another surprise winner, taking home two prizes, for Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Shahab Hosseini plays an actor who is in the midst of moving apartments and starring in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” when his wife (Taraneh Alidoosti) is assaulted in the shower of their new domicile by a man who assumes that she is the former tenant, a prostitute. When the door buzzes, the wife thinks she is letting in her husband, but winds up in the hospital with more than wounds to her head and psyche — her husband is hellbent on revenge.

The Honorary Palme d’Or went to Jean-Pierre Leaud, who came to the festival with his first film “The 400 Blows” in 1959 when he was 14 years old, and was hugged by Jean Cocteau. Juror Arnaud Desplechin presented the award. Leaud said this was the most joy he had felt since Francois Truffaut told him to take the script for “The 400 Blows.”

Among those who did not need to attend the closing ceremony were Isabelle Huppert, who earned raves for Paul Verhoeven’s provocative thriller “Elle” (Sony Pictures Classics), in which she plays a videogame entrepreneur who refuses to allow her violent rape in her own home to ruin her life. Verhoeven’s first French-language film is likely to play better in North America.

READ MORE: Cannes 2016: Complete List of This Year’s Winners

Also left out of the awards were “Paterson” (Amazon), American auteur Jim Jarmusch’s spare and austere portrait of a bus driver poet (Adam Driver) and his wife and muse (Golshifteh Farahani), as well as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes’ “The Unknown Girl” (Sundance Selects), starring Adèle Haenel as an empathetic doctor who ignores a late-hour doorbell at her private practice and finds out that the young woman was murdered nearby. She embarks on a mission to identify the girl and inform her family of her death. Park Chan-Wook’s gorgeously wrought erotic drama “The Handmaiden” (Amazon) starring Kim Min-hee and newcomer Kim Tae-ri as secret lesbian lovers was also overlooked.

Among the anticipated films that disappointed the critics at Cannes (not to mention the jury) were Sean Penn’s aid worker romance “The Last Face,” starring Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron, which was seeking a North American buyer, and Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Neon Demon” (Amazon), starring Elle Fanning, who discovers that starving models in the Los Angeles fashion world literally eat each other alive. In one memorable scene, when one x-ray model known as the bionic woman (because she has altered so much of her body) throws up an eyeball, her best friend pops it into her own mouth. (With five films at the festival, Amazon won no awards.)

At the “Neon Demon” party, when I asked Cannes director Thierry Fremaux why so many movies wound up in Competition that the critics did not like, he said that the festival was not set up for the critics, although they clearly play an important role. He said that how movies played for audiences was important too. Clearly that included the Cannes jury.

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Comments

Mary

Bummer that women had such great films this year, and men with mediocre films still beat them.

rgm

That screen jury/critics chart is interesting indeed!

LT

Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann is certainly a crowd pleaser too and intelligent and says so much about the state of our world but sadly was not the jury’s cup of tea. It’s very sad for such a great film to be left out of the awards.

Sam

Could these awards have been MORE middlebrow?
Can we override the official awards and pretend it was actually the following?

Palme D’or: Elle
Prix du Jury: Sieranevada
Best Director: Maren Ade
Best Actor: Adam Driver
Best Actress: Sonia Braga

Arno

In the end, it’s not the choice of the critics but of 9 persons (hence the randomness!). For exemple, I would personally chose: Palme d’or: Stay Vertical; Grand Prix: The Handmaiden; Prix du jury: Elle; Best directors: Assayas and Mendoza; Actor: Vincent Cassel; Actrice: Sonia Braga; First film: The red turtle…

Emma

Critics adored American Honey? Where? When? To me it looked like it was just average to most, with many comments on its unnecessary length.

sukari

Sᴛᴀʀᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋɪɴɢ ғʀᴏᴍ ʜᴏᴍᴇ! Gʀᴇᴀᴛ ᴊᴏʙ ғᴏʀ sᴛᴜᴅᴇɴᴛs, sᴛᴀʏ-ᴀᴛ-ʜᴏᴍᴇ ᴍᴏᴍs ᴏʀ ᴀɴʏᴏɴᴇ ɴᴇᴇᴅɪɴɢ ᴀɴ ᴇxᴛʀᴀ ɪɴᴄᴏᴍᴇ… Yᴏᴜ ᴏɴʟʏ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ᴀ ᴄᴏᴍᴘᴜᴛᴇʀ ᴀɴᴅ ᴀ ʀᴇʟɪᴀʙʟᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀɴᴇᴛ ᴄᴏɴɴᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ… Mᴀᴋᴇ $90 ʜᴏᴜʀʟʏ ᴀɴᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴛᴏ $12000 ᴀ ᴍᴏɴᴛʜ ʙʏ ғᴏʟʟᴏᴡɪɴɢ ʟɪɴᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴏᴛᴛᴏᴍ ᴀɴᴅ sɪɢɴɪɴɢ ᴜᴘ… Yᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ғɪʀsᴛ ᴄʜᴇᴄᴋ ʙʏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴇɴᴅ ᴏғ ᴛʜɪs ᴡᴇᴇᴋ… Open This Lin ᴵᴵ••►►>►►>►►­ w­­w­­w.2­­­2­­­m­­­o­­­n­­­e­­­y­­­b­­­a­­­y.c­­o­­m

Boblah

Mary, shut the hell up with your quota nonsense. The Jury prize and Camera D’Or both went to women. "Men with mediocre films" also beat out MEN with better films.

Charity Toupin

I would like to congratulate Ms Jacklyn Jose for winning best actress! i felt the urge to defend her win! She has always been one of the most talented actress in Philippine Cinema. For more than 30 years now. As a young actress she has tackled roles that no young woman her contemporary would do. And shes always been criticized for taking this roles.She would do mostly roles that would challenged her acting, and mostly makes you cry and suffer for her. She was not the darling of the crowd. In a country that cast actresses due to their looks and not their talent. Where her talent is always over shadowed by actress that looks beautiful rather than talented! Recognition likr this is hard to get and i cant think of anyone more talented and deserving than her.

Lerr

Can men just die already and let us take it all over?

Chris

It’s funny how Toni Erdmann is the highest rated film of the bunch and won zero awards. Guess that’s what happens when the director of Happy Feet Two is the President of the jury.

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