And so the most prestigious film festival in the world comes to an end, with the “awards season” taking a vague shape right behind it. Cannes, usually to its credit, has almost always been far outside of Oscar’s wheelhouse, opting for indie and world cinema superstars over Hollywood royalty that make the cinema snobs raise their pinkies in solidarity. However, recently the spotlight has increased on the festival in recent years as more and more of their darlings have been getting some love from the Academy as well. Earlier this year we saw no less than five films from Cannes receive Oscar nominations, including opener Midnight in Paris, Palme d’Or champ The Tree of Life and eventual Best Picture winner The Artist. Going back further sees Oscar nominees from the likes of Biutiful, Inglourious Basterds, The White Ribbon and Waltz with Bashir.
Whether or not this year’s entrants will have the same fortune will be discussed heavily among us at Awards Circuit over the coming months, I promise you, but for now what of the internal awards of the festival itself? Unlike the homogenous blob of 3,000+ voters of the Academy, the Cannes winners are selected by a small elite cadre of actors, filmmakers, and craftsman (and the occasional accomplished writer) making up a jury, bringing with them their own deeply personal criteria, tastes and possible biases into the equation over who wins and who…doesn’t. Our main jury this year is headed up by Nanni Moretti, past Palme winner for his film The Son’s Room. Which of the twenty-two race horses are in prime position to capture his and the hearts of his fellow jury members? Here’s how I see the race, having not seen a single one of the films gunning for these prizes yet:
Palme d’Or – Golden Palm
I would love to go against the grain on this one. I would love to defiantly bet against the near-unanimous love for Michael Haneke’s uncharacteristically tender story of an elderly couple who are tested when one suffers a debilitating stroke, having my own David Poland “I told you so!” moment when the “shocking” upset occurs. But the truth is that no movie in the main competition has been as widely and enthusiastically embraced as Amour. The critics loved it, the audience at Cannes loved it, and there is no reason to believe the jury doesn’t adore the movie to pieces as well. Some might say that there’s no way he would win a second Palme so soon after claiming one just three years ago for his overwrought and overrated The White Ribbon,* to which I’d like to remind my dear readers that it only took Bille August four years for his second award. Plus, its subject and tone seems more aligned to the aesthetics of this year’s jury president than its closest competition, Holy Motors…
Grand Prix – Grand Prize of the Festival
Prediction: Holy Motors
…that’s not to say Nanni Moretti’s jury will necessarily let the second-most buzzed-out film in competition go empty-handed, though. On the contrary, crazed, defiantly singular visions like Holy Motors have had much success with the runner-up prize at Cannes, especially when they lose to more conventional films for the Palme. In truth, I’m a little stunned by the reception to Léos Carax’s latest film. The last full-length feature he sprung on us was the criminally misunderstood Pola X over twelve years ago, which was recalled with many of the same descriptors of passionate artistic excess but was dismissed as pretentious nonsense. Did Carax add some sort of special je ne sais quoi to make his inscrutable limousine odyssey more palatable to audiences, or have audiences changed in that time?
Prix du Jury – Jury Prize
Prediction: Beyond the Hills
Essentially the bronze medal of the festival, recent history suggests that juries typically like to give relative newcomers this prize. While the logic would follow that Jeff Nichols would then stand to triumph as this year’s youngest director in competition for his well-received Mud, I think they’d rather use this as an opportunity to validate the talents of Cristian Mungiu with his follow-up to his magnificent Palme d’Or-winning debut film. While his tough-minded drama about an Orthodox convent has had split reactions so far, rumor has it that the jury is quite taken by the striking compositions (and when is Oleg Mutu going to get his Best Cinematography nomination?!) and harrowing moral dilemmas of the film, and this prize seems as good as any to put that in the spotlight.
Prix d’interprétation féminine – Best Actress
Prediction: Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
I’m honestly torn between Riva and Margarethe Tiesel for her equally-praised work as a sex tourist in Paradise: Love. While I’m sure it’s as fearless as we’ve all heard, Riva has all the cards in her favor this year: starring in a beloved film (as opposed to Tiesel being just about the only praised thing about Paradise: Love), ticking off the boxes of mental/physical affliction that – believe it or not – tickle the fancy of Cannes juries as much as Oscar voters, and an opportunity to award a national treasure the highest honor of her career (assuming the Academy doesn’t come knocking later). Riva has been in the business for over fifty years, most notably in the classic romantic war drama Hiroshima Mon Amour, and a career-capper like this is too perfect a symbolic opportunity for them to ignore.
Prix d’interprétation masculine – Best Actor
Prediction: Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust & Bone
Here is where I actually will go against the grain and be a little bold in predicting against the presumed frontrunner – Denis Lavant’s multifaceted performance(s) in Holy Motors – in favor of Matthias Schoenaerts’ tender-tough guy in Rust and Bone. While Jacques Audiard’s film is not as widely beloved as Amour (God, I wonder how he feels about a Haneke film snatching the Palme away from him again!), its warm reception strongly suggests some sort of prize being thrown its way. Schoenaerts has been praised left and right for his work here, and contrary to Oscar voters, Cannes juries are not always resistant to awarding a Breakout Actor to Watch over a veteran.
Prix de la mise en scène – Best Director
Prediction: Thomas Vinterberg for The Hunt
The Hunt has been one of the more well-reviewed competition entries of the festival, though it’s difficult to see where exactly it would fall among the winner’s circle. Certainly it might be a little too bold to suggest that the increasingly prestigious consolation prize of Best Director would go to an under-the-radar darling like this one. Then again, one looks at the number of reviews noting the hot-blooded emotions boiling under the surface of this domestic drama of a man possibly wrongly accused of child abuse, as well as the formal restraint used to evoke those emotions of seemingly familiar ground for the long-working and esteemed director Vinterberg, and the more I feel like his “comeback” film is quietly becoming a powerful industry narrative that will pay off on awards night.
Prix du scénario – Best Screenplay
Prediction: Sergei Loznitsa for In the Fog
This one I admit is a total shot in the dark. I don’t have a clue what could win here. Moretti is reportedly a Kiarostami devotee but Like Someone in Love hasn’t exactly lit up the festival à la Certified Copy. Amour would normally be a shoo-in for this award were it not for the festival’s two-awards-per-film limit imposed ever since Barton Fink’s sweep in 1991, though if the film loses the Palme or Riva loses Best Actress this is certainly a possibility. Meanwhile, Sergei Loznitsa returns to Cannes after being shut out of any prizes for his formally immaculate but punishingly abstract and deeply upsetting historical nightmare My Joy (think of it as Russian Ark’s evil twin). Reports have suggested the film is highly admired but hard to get emotionally attached to, and a probing, difficult exploration of another unsettling aspect of Russian history could be a solid choice for the jury and their other-other consolation prize.
I’m sure most of these predictions will be as wrong as my predictions for last year’s festival (remember when Olivier Assayas “confided” in one journalist that was the only juror who flipped for The Tree of Life? Oh, you sneaky Frenchman, you!). So what are your predictions for the big announcement? Which of these possible victors are you most excited to see? Sound off!
* I should state upfront that I am normally a huge fan of Michael Haneke, especially The Piano Teacher and Caché, but his (hazy) allegory of the Holocaust was far beneath his considerable abilities.
Tags: Amour, Beyond the Hills, Cannes Film Festival, Cosmopolis, Denis Lavant, Emmanuelle Riva, Holy Motors, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Like Someone in Love, Moonrise Kingdom, Mud, Nanni Moretti, On the Road, Palme d'Or, predictions, Reality, Rust &Bone, The Hunt, The Paperboy, Thomas Vinterberg