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by Eric Kohn
May 25, 2012 12:06 PM
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CANNES: The 5 Top Contenders for the Palme D'Or

The Palme d'Or is unquestionably one of the most prestigious awards a filmmaker can win, but unlike the Oscars, it's nearly impossible to predict. The decision comes down to a jury comprised of eight artists from around the world. This year, they're led by Italian filmmakers Nanni Moretti, the first non-American jury president in two years. As screenings of the competition films wind down, culminating with Saturday's awards ceremony, many Cannes attendees have embarked on the uncertain process of predicting which movies stand the best chance at the top prize. Unlike some years at the festival, the current edition has no single top contender. However, a handful entries have been routinely mentioned as the most likely contenders, for the reasons explained below. Of course, come Sunday, anything could happen.

"Amour" ("Love")

"Amour" Sony Pictures Classics
WHY IT MIGHT WIN:
Michael Haneke's emotionally assured and devastating look at an aging couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) dealing with the Riva character's devolving mental state is unquestionably the filmmaker's most powerful achievement, a deeply moving account of the aging process and its impact on family bonds. Critical acclaim has been through the roof.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: Haneke won the Palme d'Or for "The White Ribbon" just two years ago, a factor that could figure into the jury's decision if they decide to single out a less acclaimed filmmaker. It's also possible that the jury will decide the film's chief strengths come from its two lead performances and award one or both of them while sharing the love by giving the Palme to someone else.

"Holy Motors"

WHY IT MIGHT WIN:
Leos Carax's jarringly strange portrait of a versatile man (Denis Lavant) dashing around Paris in a limo and playing several vastly different characters for some unseen spectators excited critics for its dreamlike logic and cinematic ambition. It's Carax's first feature in 13 years and quite the comeback.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: Some viewers found "Holy Motors" too gimmicky and illogical; it's this year's "Uncle Boonmee" slot, but that surreal Thai movie won the Palme d'Or when Tim Burton was president of jury and not a politically-charged director of Italian comedies. It's hard to say if Moretti likes the film but certainly possible that the jury as a whole doesn't quite know what to make of it. Instead of the Palme, they could award Carax with the festival's directing prize and/or single out Lavant's performance.

"On the Road"

WHY IT MIGHT WIN:
Walter Salles' adaptation of the classic Jack Kerouac novel turned out a lot better than many people expected by replicating the Beat author's stream-of-consciousness approach and maintaining an understated tone. It's a hard movie to intensely dislike even though a lot of critics were underwhelmed, and giving it the Palme would acknowledge the lasting value of Kerouac's work in addition to Salles' ability to render it in cinematic terms.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: It's a star-studded, unambitious road trip drama that doesn't build to a major emotional payoff or contain an advanced filmmaking approach. It could win the screenplay award instead.

"Like Someone in Love"

WHY IT MIGHT WIN:
Abbas Kiarostami's Japan-set enigma about a young prostitute driving around town with an elderly professor left a lot of critics scratching their heads even though many enjoyed the experience. Kiarostami's textured narrative draws you into the proceedings with his typically advanced use of mise-en-scene and patient storytelling approach that constantly seems littered with meaning even as the big picture remains elusive. The jury may also want to single out an Iranian filmmaker for the political ramifications such a decision could have.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT WIN: Because the big picture remains elusive. Hardly the big hit of the festival, "Like Someone in Love" is a tough sell for anyone unfamiliar with the filmmaker's work and there are far more uniformly accessible films in competition this year.

"Rust and Bone"

WHY IT COULD WIN:
Jacques Audiard's sentimental tale of an agile woman (Marion Cotillard) rendered wheelchair-bound after a devastating accident and the buff street fighter (Mathias Schoenaerts) who gradually falls in love with her went over quite well early in the festival for its carefully developed, bittersweet mood. Audiard is a much-beloved filmmaker in France who was considered a leading contender for the Palme a few years back when "A Prophet" premiered at Cannes, so this could be jury's chance to single him out.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: Not everyone responded so warmly to the film's familiar type of sentimentalism, and the plot is largely predictable by the end of the first act. While skillfully made, it's not an audacious achievement. The jury could also single out Cotillard or Schoenaerts for acting prizes.
 

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12 Comments

  • eithan | May 26, 2012 6:24 AMReply

    although generating mixed reviews, my money is on Alain Resnais' "You A'int Seen Nothing Yet". He's 90 years old, and it might be his last movie. I guess the jury would want to honor this important director.
    Haneke's Palme D'or from two years ago will be held against him this time. And also - most of the times, the best reviewed film does NOT win the first prize. Last time both critics and judges agreed was the 2007 winner, "4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days" (his new film should get some judicial recognition, but I don't see it winning the first prize).

    Another possibility is the one no one saw yet - Jeff Nichols' "Mud". In 2008, everyone were polishing the Palme D'or on "Waltz witrh Bashir" 's name, and then, out of no where, came the last screening of the competition, the (dull) French "The Class", and took home the big prize.
    (I should point out that "Take Shelter" is one of my last year's favorites)

  • Amy | May 25, 2012 10:58 PMReply

    No Cosmopolis? Really? Well, I don't know anything. I'll just wait and see.

  • justinlou | May 25, 2012 7:23 PMReply

    so is Killing Them Softly a straight up gangster movie or is it deeper? I thought Dominik likes films that exercise the meaning in things like Jesse James? I mean I don't know cause I haven't seen it haha but is that why it's not mentioned on these articles? I just hoped it was gonna be like Goodfellas or Animal Kingdom where it explores the full complexity or a single theme with detail rather than a simple gangster film. It could be ok why did I even write this pointlessly vague comment i am an idiot.

  • Jasper | May 25, 2012 7:22 PMReply

    No Beyond the Hills? Apparently that got a standing ovation from a few jury members.

  • G | May 25, 2012 6:51 PMReply

    "In the fog" will get something. No doubt.
    On the road? That's a cruel joke. No chance.

  • MVA | May 25, 2012 4:13 PMReply

    On the Road should get an award. The young blood in this film is refreshing.

  • Chapman | May 25, 2012 3:04 PMReply

    ON THE ROAD got panned and is in the low 3's. AMOUR will win the crown.

  • Amy | May 25, 2012 11:03 PM

    I think the reviews are pretty contradictory. They overwhelmingly praise the performances, but are giving lackluster reviews of the overall movie. That's weird. lol It would be nice for it to win, too. They did what was called "the impossible." They filmed what they called "unfilmmable." Also, most of critics all agree that the direction and cinematography were excellent, but felt that Salles was bound by the source material.

  • MDL | May 25, 2012 1:40 PMReply

    What about 'In The Fog'? It seems like it might at least get a jury prize, which means it should be considered despite the fact it is not from a well known director or has any stars we have heard of.

  • Eric | May 25, 2012 1:44 PM

    It's very strong and stands a chance at winning something, for sure, but not a serious contender for the Palme.

  • dudeabides | May 25, 2012 1:35 PMReply

    actress - marion cotillard
    actor - Louis Trintignant
    screenplay - on the road
    director - Leos Carax
    palm d'or - Amour

    thats what i think at least :P

  • Reini Urban | May 26, 2012 12:03 PM

    Dudeabides: I'm with you, just screenplay to Cronenberg.