What a year this has been for the Cannes Film Festival. Following the 2020 hiatus, then the delayed but exciting 2021 edition, the festival was back for the first time in as normal conditions as we could have hoped for, at its usual time of May and with an abundance of talents and films. Fears that film festivals might never be able to return to normal in a long time proven unfounded. The predicted superspreader event that had been predicted for the 2021 festival then this one did not happen and it was a celebration of both sides of cinema, the arthouse and the glamour, that was sorely needed!
As usual with a small jury of diverse artists, predictions were a bit pointless and there were candidates but no clear runaway favourite hence the ceremony was particularly exciting. That two joint awards and a special 75th one were given is a testimony to the quality of the selection. The winners were:
Jury prize ex aequo:
EO by Jerzy Skolimowski and The Eight Mountains by Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix Von Goreningen
That these two films that represent a totally different proposition of cinema ended up with a shared prize feels a bit incongruous but then again the diversity is what film festivals is all about. Many predicted a higher prize for the former due to its humanism and formal invention but it is also an unusual film that must have divided the jury. The latter is such a warm and likeable film and it has to be said, so many jury members feel that their awards must go to social films above any other consideration, that The Eight Mountains that celebrates the trials of friendships with a seemingly "smaller" story should be celebrated.
Prize of the 75th:
Tori & Lokita by Jean-Pierre & Lucy Dardenne
A consolation prize of sort, many felt the Dardennes did not have anything particularly new to say and celebrating them in that way might be more down to their laudable intention than the actual result.
Boy From Heaven by Tarik Salih
One of the most expected awards as many felt the gripping script was indeed the highly of Boy From Heaven.
Park Chan-wook for Decision to Leave
A richly deserved prize for the South Korean director with a dazzling display of his immense directing talent. The Palme d'Or won by his compatriot Bong Joon-ho a few years ago is still eluding him after near twenty years on the Croisette and surely his time will come but for now, this will do.
Song Kang-ho for Broker
South Korean cinema has been widely celebrated and become very popular over the last twenty years although oddly enough its very talented actors and actresses have often been overlooked (see the recent Parasite triumph at the oscars when none of the cast members were even nominated). Veteran Song Kang-ho is the best thing in the otherwise misfire by Kore-Eda, Broker with his affectionate and moving performance and it was high time he collected a major acting award.
Zar Amir-Ebrahimi for Holy Spider
Holy Spider was a serious contender for many awards: direction, script... so it was a little bit of a surprise to see its lead actress collect this award instead, having said that, it is a richly deserved one all the same.
Grand Prix ex aequo:
Close by Lukas Dhont and Stars at Noon by Claire Denis
Again, many predicted a higher prize for the young Belgian prodigy Lukas Dhont, for a film which, in my humble opinion, is slightly too forced and artificial to reach greatness but it had many supporters at the festival. As for Claire Denis, this most by far the most unexpected and exhilarating award of the ceremony. The veteran French director is having a great year, a few mere months after winning Silver Bear for best director in Berlin and the jury was particularly bold to award her the joint runner up prize for her playful interpretation of the '80s exotic/political thriller, again showing that social is not everything when it comes to cinema.
Triangle of Sadness by Ruben Ostlund
I really was not a fan of this obvious and overlong satire but I cannot deny that its chaotic energy in its best scenes is infectious and I have rarely seen an audience of journalists laugh so hard. Divisive among critics and guarantee to do well upon its release and the crossover mainstream/arthouse audience, it is a bold, exciting pick even if I do not agree with it. Still, it is sobering to think that the Swedish director has just entered the very exclusive club of two Palme d'Or winners when many illustrious and worthy recipients have yet to win one. Names like Pedro Almodovar and indeed Park Chan-wook spring to mind...