What does winning a prize at Cannes mean in the long run? It depends on which one — the Palme d’Or and acting prizes have more impact than any of the nine awards. For every Penélope Cruz in “Volver” or Rooney Mara in “Carol,” who went on to Oscar nominations, there’s a Renate Reinsve, who rode a surge of nominations for “Worst Person in the World,” but got no Oscar mention.
A Cannes prize can help a Screenplay winner like “Boy from Heaven” to land distribution, including in North America. And it boosts a film’s chances of being submitted for the Oscar by its home country, although neither Swedish-Egyptian filmmaker Tarik Saleh’s “Boy from Heaven” nor Iranian-Danish Ali Abbasi’s “Holy Spider” (Mubi), which won Best Actress for Zar Amir Ebrahimi as a journalist fighting for justice for slain prostitutes, will be submitted by Egypt or Iran, respectively. Both filmmakers are persona non grata in those countries for taking on taboo subjects. (Sweden or Denmark could do the honors, though.)
“This movie is about women,” said Amir Ebrahimi. “It’s about their bodies, it’s a movie full of hands, feet, breasts, sex, everything that is impossible to show in Iran. Thank you Ali Abbasi for being so crazy and so generous, and thank you for directing against all odds this powerful film.”
Most of the non-English-language films at Cannes that could wind up in the Oscar race will compete for Best International Feature Film, although in recent years “Parasite,” “Cold War,” “Drive My Car,” and “Worst Person in the World” wound up competing in other races as well, including Screenplay, Cinematography, Director, and Picture.
Cannes can make careers. “25 filmmakers made love for the first time with the cinema and this Cannes film festival,” said Rossy de Palma, president of the Camera d’Or jury, which voted the first-film prize to Un Certain Regard entry “War Pony,” an indigenous story directed by Riley Keough and Gina Gammell (which seeks distribution), the only American winner from the Cannes selection. While North American filmmakers David Cronenberg (Neon’s “Crimes of the Future,” June 22), Kelly Reichardt (A24’s “Showing Up”) and James Gray (Focus Features’ “Armageddon Time”) did not make the Competition jury cut, they all boosted their profiles on the Croisette. Expect the latter two to hit the fall festival circuit.
The jury was positively radiant after their two week experience debating 21 films. “I’m terribly sad, happy, and joyful,” said president Vincent Lindon. “I loved everything: the people and the films, the electricity that permeates the air in the streets. The jury was so generous, demanding, and combative, as spectators and film experts…The riveting and passionate debates were exhausting. The decisions were all reached with a nice majority.”
Neon did well in Cannes, scoring their third Palme winner in a row. The “Titane” and “Parasite” distributor will be sure to push their surprise Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness,” which the distributor won in a bidding war, plunking down north of $8 million. The hilarious satire of the super-rich became the consensus pick for the diverse jury of men and women, actors and filmmakers, even though Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund won in 2017 for “The Square.” But the film will be competing on its merits as an English-language film, Östlund’s first; it should prove a commercial theatrical release, and a screenplay Oscar nomination would be a good bet.
The filmmaker kissed every jury member. He sought to entertain and provoke post-screening conversation at the same time, he said: “It’s a unique thing with cinema, watching together, to have something to talk about but also have fun and have an experience we want to share with others.”
Neon will encourage Japan to submit “Broker,” from Cannes regular and 2018 “Shoplifters” Palme d’Or winner and Oscar nominee Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose Korean star Song Kang Ho (“Parasite”) took home Best Actor. It was a good day for Korea, which should submit for Oscars the Cannes Directing prize-winner Park Chan-wook’s moody noir policier “Decision to Leave” (Mubi), starring Tang Wei as a femme fatale suspected of murder. This stylish critical hit could play for audiences around the world.
“With the pandemic, borders between countries were closed,” said Park. “It was difficult to communicate; sometimes it was quite complicated. We were very afraid of each other. And movie theaters were empty. We have overcome the virus and hopefully people will go back to the theaters.”
Courtesy Cannes Film Festival
The shared Jury Prize went to Poland’s “Eo” (“Hee-haw”), from puckish 84-year-old Cannes perennial Jerzy Skolimowski, who said, “Thank you, my donkeys, eeoooo!” Belgium will have a dilemma when it comes to choosing its Oscar submission. They have three choices: “The Eight Mountains,” co-directed by husband-and-wife team Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix Van Groenigen, who learned Italian to shoot in Italy. Another Belgian winner, though, came from those frequent Cannes winners the Dardenne brothers, who have won the Palme twice before (“Rosetta,” “L’Enfant”) and thus settled for a Special Prize for the 75th anniversary of the festival for their moving drama “Tori and Lokita,” which tells the story of two African refugees under duress. This film has not been picked up in North America.
The likeliest Belgian submission, however, the one which inspired the most cheers among the Palais audience, was Lukas Dhont’s tender relationship drama “Close,” which shared the second most important award, the Grand Prix, with Claire Denis’ English-language romance “Stars at Noon,” starring Joe Alwyn and Margaret Qualley. The veteran French filmmaker (who won Best Director at Berlin this year for “Fire”), discovered the young actress at Cannes in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “went into a state of ecstasy,” she said. Both are distributed by A24.
“These last few years, we had to stand at a distance from those we loved, to protect them,” said Dhont, who is 31. “I realized how much I needed my friends…I wanted to make a film of tenderness about young people…When you allow people to come close to you, it can be a superpower.”
France will have several candidates for Oscar submission, per usual, including Competition title “Mother and Son,” from Léonor Seraille; neither “Brother and Sister” from Arnaud Desplechin nor Michel Hazanavicius’ opening-night comedy “Final Cut” were well enough received to be strong candidates. Mia Hansen-Love’s Léa Seydoux romance “One Fine Morning” (Sony Pictures Classics), which unaccountably played Director’s Fortnight, is another possibility.
And Austria could submit lauded filmmaker Marie Kreutzer’s irreverent costume drama “Corsage,” starring versatile Berlin actress Vicky Krieps (2021 Cannes entry “Bergman Island”) as Austria-Hungary’s rebellious Empress Elisabeth (“Sissi”), which many thought should have been programmed in the Competition. Krieps shared the Un Certain Regard Best Actress award. With the right handling from IFC Films, the revisionist 19th-century royal slice-of-life could compete for Best Actress and Costume Design, as well as International Feature Film.
On the documentary front, Cannes has always had trouble finding prime slots for the year’s best documentaries, ceding that ground to Sundance and other festivals from Tribeca and Toronto to New York. The highest-profile documentary, Brett Morgen’s “Moonage Daydream” (Neon), the IMAX-bound kaleidoscopic portrait of David Bowie, debuted in the Midnight section, while playing in Special Screenings were Ethan Coen’s “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind” (A24) and Shaunak Sen’s lyrical portrait of the black kites of Delhi, Sundance-debut “All That Breathes” (HBO), which won the Cannes 2022 documentary jury prize. All could be Oscar contenders.
As for the more mainstream Cannes premieres, Joseph Kosinski’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” starring Tom Cruise, is wowing at the box office, and will likely compete in the same Oscar tech categories as most studio sequels; a screenplay nomination for writers Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie would also be well-deserved. One Oscar it could win: Lady Gaga’s song “Hold My Hand.”
Also heading for likely Oscar consideration is Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling musical biopic “Elvis” (Warner Bros.), which could follow the “Bohemian Rhapsody” playbook and not only vault Austin Butler into the Best Actor race, but Luhrmann for director and wife Catherine Martin for another Costume Oscar, not to mention Sound, Editing, and Hair and Make-up. As for “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” George Miller’s gorgeously mounted fantasy romance starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, the September release will need special handling from Amazon’s MGM/UA in order to last through to Oscar season.