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Tuesday
May152018

Cannes: How's the Palme d'Or Competition Shaping Up?

by Nathaniel R

Which of the 21 films that Cate Blanchett and her jury are screening, will win the Palme d'Or? It's the most coveted film festival prize in the world and it's always a nail biter even when the prize seems obvious due to the vagaries of jury voting. Only one film will win the Palme but juries are expected to spread the wealth so there's a lot to consider each year among the best-received films when you're talking "winners" since acting prizes, writing, and special prizes await us next weekend. Juries have been known to surprise by handing a random award here or there to a film that critics didn't like at all... or ignoring some obvious giant especially in the two acting awards. So in other words, take the "Cannes sensation!" reviews with a block of salt because you never know.  

Not all of the 21 films have screened yet but these 4 look like contenders of some sort to us from our vantage point across the Ocean...

Ash is Purest White
Jia Zhangke is a cinephile favorite and his latest, a two decade spanning gangster epic about a doomed romance between a mob boss and his dancer girlfriend, has been called "exquisite" by the LA Times and "strange and haunting" by the BBC. Once more we have to wonder if  Zhao Tao, Zhangke's wife, is a frontrunner for Best Actress because nearly all the reviews focus on how magnetic she is. She's been a Golden Horse nominee in the past and she's the only Asian actress to ever win the Italian Oscar so (the Donatello) so a Cannes prize would be icing on her prestigious career cake. She won raves for their last film together Mountains May Depart but it failed to pick up any prizes at the festival. 

Cold War
Pawel Pawlikowski is already an Oscar winner for his nun drama Ida (2014) and for its long awaited follow-up, he's got himself another critical sensation and potential international hit. Like Ida the film is in black and white but this time it's a romantic drama set in the 1950s. Joanna Kulig who played a singer in Ida stars with handsome actor Tomasz Kot (who was in Poland's Oscar submission Spoor last year). Agata Kulesza, who was so entirely brilliant as the jaded aunt in Ida is in the supporting cast. 

Happy as Lazzaro
Italian director Alice Rohracher took Directors Fortnight at Cannes in 2011 and then the Grand Prix in 2014 so she has to be considered a top contender in 2018 given the ecstatic reception her new film received critically. Even if Cate Blanchett's jury isn't looking for a way to reward female filmmakers, as the recent 82 women protest suggests to some, she'd be a contender given her career to date and momentum at this particular festival (directors often have to work their way up through the awards to a Palme). And that's before you even get to the film which is difficult to describe (even skimming reviews I'm not sure of exactly what it is!) which  The Guardian describes as "a beguiled fable" and Variety as "ambitious" and "exhilarating". Alba Rohrwacher, who is the director's sister and who you'll remember as Tilda Swinton's daughter in I Am Love or perhaps her Venice winning performance in Hungry Hearts, co-stars in the film. Adriano Tardolo makes his film debut in the titular role.

BlacKkKlansman
Spike Lee's buddy comedy spin on a true story about a black cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s received a huge standing ovation and it's Lee's sixth film in competition at Cannes. But let's talk about that one in a minute when we post the trailer.

OF NOTE
There were early rumors online that Eva Husson's Girls of the Sun about a female war battalion fighting against Isis was this year's competition stinker BUT that hasn't quite been the case. It's been enjoying brisk sales (over 16 countries already for distribution) and a warm audience response so might it be a jury curveball of some sort.

THE OTHER COMPETITION FILMS NOT ALL OF WHICH HAVE SCREENED YET

  • Asaka I & II (Japan) directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
  • At War (France) directed by Stéphane Brizé 
  • Ayka (Kazakhstan) directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy
  • Burning (South Korea) directed by Lee Chang-dong
  • Capernaum (Lebanon) directed by Nadine Labaki
  • Dogman (Italy) directed by Matteo Garrone
  • Everybody Knows (Spain) directed by Asghar Farhadi
  • The Image Book (France) directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Knife and Heart (France) directed by Yann Gonzalez
  • Leto (Russia) directed by Kirill Serebrennikov
  • Shoplifters (Japan) directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
  • Sorry Angel (France) directed by Christophe Honoré
  • Three Faces (Iran) directed by Jafar Panahi
  • Under the Silver Lake (US) directed by David Robert Mitchell
  • The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey) directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • Yomeddine (Egypt) directed by AB Shawky

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Reader Comments (16)

I think Kore-eda has a strong shot, too.

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

From all I've read so far, 'Happy as Lazzaro' sounds like the one to beat. The reviews are exstatic, Rohrwacher has had a good run in Cannes in the past, and the momentum of the 82 women protest might help, too.

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

Happy as Lazzaro feels too perfect an opportunity to pass up. It's one of the best reviewed films of the festival, it's from a filmmaker with a proven history at Cannes and well, a female filmmaker.

The warm reception and the way Lee has been building up his reputation after a perceived "weak" period, as well as the jury and the fact that filmmakers of color haven't received a lot of attention at the festival makes me think he's also a prime contender for either the writing or directing award. Leaning towards the latter.

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

Italian films have been bubblling under the Palme d'Or for a while now. Since their last winner, La stanza del figlio (2001), they have been runners-up (i.e. Grand Prix winners) three times (Gomorrah, Reality, and Rohrwacher's own The Wonders). Maybe this year she or Garrone (who won the other two Grands Prix) can clinch the big one this year.

Still plenty to play for in the competition, though...

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Rooting for Shoplifters but the juries' tastes in their own projects don't seem to side with the sentimental/warm/sweet embrace type of films like Kore-eda's. We'll see.

My fingers are crossing so hard for Under the Silver Lake. Please be good.

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJija

I've been reading about what's happening at Cannes as it's always exciting as I've already added a bunch of films to the never-ending watchlist.

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Too bad Honoré's movie is not a musical!

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Let's face it: Chinese actresses will almost never win any Oscar so the likes of Cannes and other prizes are as best as they can achieve, sad to say. Look at Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Josephine Seow, the list goes on. Here's hoping Zhao Tao gets her due...she was a tour de force in Mountains May Depart.

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJans

I'm all down for a second woman winning the Palme, but if it's going to be Alice Rohracher, I sure hope "Happy as Lazzaro" is livelier than "The Wonders," which bored me to tears...

May 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I read The Times (London) and their review of Girls of the Sun:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the competition is — unofficially — closed. With almost a week remaining of the Cannes Film Festival there seems little point in screening any more of the Palme d’Or entries for the winner, surely, has arrived?”

The Guardian was positive too. I need to widen my reviewers clearly, any tips?

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

For Cannes coverage I mean.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

Louise -- it was something i kept reading on twitter. perhaps it was merely bad buzz before the screening?

May 16, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The star ratings for GIRLS OF THE SUN on that daily tally sheet they have are all pretty disastrous. Curious.

But, yeah, the Rohrwacher is looking very strong at the moment. And THE WONDERS was so good and won the Grand Prix so it'd make sense.

I cannot wait for the Jia Zhangke. Ugh, give it me to me. Would love to see Zhao Tao take the best actress prize as she's been great in all the films of his that I have seen and she was on my yearly ballots for both A TOUCH OF SIN (supporting) and MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (lead).

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

NATHANIEL R - twitter’s definitely a much better place for more general views than 2 UK newspapers. It’s not a place that I think to go, luddite that I am.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

Shoplifters, The Image Book, and Three Faces had a lot of ardent fans, too, and Burning (hooray!!) seemed to crush it today, according to reviews. Seems to be a lot stronger overall than last year.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Girls of the Sun was sooooo bad. I feel like this Rohrwacher’s but it’s highly competitive now in the last few days.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterErik Anderson

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