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« Cannes: 'Un Certain Regard' and 'Cinéfondation' Winners | Main | Fleabag: Season 2 »

Cannes winds down. What's winning the Palme?

by Nathaniel R

Margot Robbie at Cannes for "Once Upon a Time in..."There are 21 titles competing for the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. We've already talked about seven titles. Pedro Almodovar's Pain & Glory (Spain) is a potential prize winner (and a legit Oscar hopeful) and Mati Diop's Atlantique (France/Senegal), and Celine Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France) could be the key films in ensuring prizes to female directors (something Cannes has historically been bad at) since they were both extremely well-received.

In addition to those three potential Palme d'Or or Best Director winners (Cannes most important prizes), Ladj Ly's contemporary French drama Les Misérables and Kleber Mendonça Filho's Brazilian oddity Bacurau are also threats for jury love.  Diao Yinan's The Wild Goose Lake and Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die got decent notices but we don't expect prizes there.  

With Cannes ending this weekend we've run out of time so here are quick notes on responses to the other 14 Competition titles and our predictions after the jump...


FRANKIE (Ira Sachs, US)
A single day with a family on vacation in Portugal with an all star international cast led by Isabelle Huppert. Sachs has been on a real roll of late (Love is Strange and Little Men were both so wonderful) so we can't wait to see it. Variety seems to consider this one slight but enjoyable but The Guardian hates it. The Wrap likes the performances but uses the word 'simplicity' so we don't expect prizes.

A HIDDEN LIFE (Terrence Malick, US/Germany)
Malick is back with his longest film yet (yikes) and with what everyone is calling his best since The Tree of Life though we must remind you that that isn't a high bar given his recent output. This one is a true story about a conscientous objector (August Diehl) to the Nazis during World War II. As per usual with Malick, movie stars appear (in this case all European like Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruno Ganz) but in tiny roles. The Hollywood Reporter thinks it's beautiful but is disappointed saying "just when you ache for the film to begin to go deeper, it instead starts flatlining". Variety loves it, though, calling it "stunningly relevant" and a return to form. The IndieWire review (very positive) reads like a long sigh of relief "told with the probing moral urgency that was suffused into The Thin Red Line,  A Hidden Life is a lucid and profoundly defiant portrait of faith in crisis." With reknowned directors like Malick you never know if their reputation will net them a big jury prize even if the reviews weren't there. 

IT MUST BE HEAVEN (Elia Suleiman, France/Canada)
The Palestinian filmmaker stars in this comedy about his own travels. Reviews seem respectful but we don't expect prizes.

LITTLE JOE (Jessica Hausner, Austria/Germany/UK)
A sci-fi picture about a genetically engineered plant with lots of names in the cast.  Polygon and Birth Movies Death both like it but seem to feel it's not quite a slam dunk.

MATTHIAS AND MAXIME (Xavier Dolan, Canada)
Dolan's naturally getting a lot of press for this personal drama about friendship but then Dolan always gets a lot of press. His last two pictures were often considered histrionic so it's worth nothing that people are calling this one "gentle" and "restrained". The reviews don't make us think he's a threat for prizes but then, he almost always wins something, even when critics don't respond well and they have this time. 

This is a sequel to Kechiche's earlier film Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno and critics are hating it. Most reviews seem to suggest that it's length (as long as Lawrence of Arabia) is not even slightly warranted and many critics outright hate it. LA Times calls it the worst film at Cannes and IndieWire actually says that 60% of the running time is "extreme close-ups of jiggling female derrieres". Lol. Perhaps Kechiche is trolling Cannes (multiple critics have used variations of this suggestion) after his Palme d'Or win for Blue is the Warmest Color.  

OH MERCY (Arnaud Desplechin, France)
A murder investigation drama starring one of our favourite French actresses, Léa Seydoux. Reviews sound a bit suspect, like it's too generic for Desplechin and possibly. as The Wrap suggests, a "pilot in disguise" 

You already know about this one. And will have plenty of time to talk about it soon. But reviews are great, calling it dazzling and retro-cool, and anything you might expect it to be called from the trailers.

PARASITE (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)
Internationally successful Bong Joon-ho leaves the more fantastical genres of sci-fi and horror behind for the time being for this thriller about an unemployed family in crisis. Reviews have been raves for this one, so we hope South Korea will submit it for the Oscars.

A working class family struggling. Cannes really loves Ken Loach, no matter who is on the jury, since he's won the Palme d'Or twice in the past 13 years. 

SYBIL (Justin Triet, France)
Guy Lodge's review at Variety makes this psychothriller sound delicious, writing "a film that effectively plays as cinematic dessert — albeit less a choux puff than a lemon tart, with sharper notes than expected to its creamy pleasures" but the Jury will undoubtedly want something more sober about its importance. 

THE TRAITOR (Marco Bellocchio, Italy)
This biopic of the 1980s mafia informant Tommaso Buscetta stars Pierfrancesco Favino. Good reviews but a prize would surprise us. Sony Pictures Classics has already snatched it up for US distribution. But if the jury doesn't go for Antonio Banderas for Best Actor perhaps Favino might factor in?

THE WHISTLERS (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)
Porumboiu has been a critical darling at Cannes multiple times but never in the main competition lineup until now. His latest is a bloody dark comedy police thriller set on a remote island in which everyone is double-crossing everyone else and speaking in a coded language made of actual whistles. The Wrap is enamored describing it as "a deliciously twisted ride that runs on an endless supply of black humor". Variety likes it overall but calls it "comparatively minor" in relation to Porumboiu's filmography despite it being his largest and most ambitious picture in multiple ways.

YOUNG AHMED (The Dardenne brothers, Belgium)
The shortest film in competition is about a teenage Muslim boy who becomes radicalized and plots to kill his teacher. Reviews are admiring, as they always are with the Dardennes at Cannes. Though we assume this won't go over as well once the film leaves Cannes, politically speaking. 



We've put them in the order of our guesswork about how much the jury will like them (but anything in bold we feel has a really strong chance to win something so it's basically a tie -- they're all threats for the Palme) . What they might win, we're not going to "predict" because Cannes is impossible to guess each year, despite everyone acting each and every year like they know what films will win. Jury deliberations can often result in very odd compromises and "make-up" prizes if something can't win this it will get that... and so on.


Green = We expect one of these four pictures to win the Palme. And if not the Palme something else. Basically we think France is going to have a very good year and dominate the conversation with three reportedly strong pictures. But which, if any, will they choose for their Oscar submission?

Blue = A major prize would not surprise but the Palme win would for various reasons.

Red = Cannes history suggests to never doubt these filmmakers when it comes to prizes, no matter the individual film's reception.


  1. Les Misérables (France)
  2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)
  3. Pain & Glory (Spain)
  4. Atlantique (France/Senegal)
  5. Parasite (South Korea)
  6. Bacurau (Brazil)
  7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (US)
  8. Sorry We Missed You (UK)
  9. Matthias & Maxime (Canada)
  10. Young Ahmed (Belgium)
  11. The Whistlers (Romania)
  12. A Hidden Life (Germany/US)
  13. The Traitor (Italy)
  14. The Wild Goose Lake (China)
  15. It Must Be Heaven (France)
  16. Sybil (France/Belgium)
  17. Frankie (US)
  18. Little Joe (UK)
  19. Oh Mercy (France)
  20. The Dead Don't Die (US)
  21. Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo (France)

Antonio Banderas (Pain & Glory) vs. Pierfrancesco Favino (The Traitor) vs. Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time) vs Vlad Ivanov (Whistlers) vs Ben Addi (Young Ahmed)

Adele Haenel + Noemi Merlant (Portrait...) vs. Debbie Honeywood (Sorry We've Missed You) vs Emily Beecham (Little Joe) vs. Mama Sane (Atlantique) vs Sonia Braga (Bacurau)

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Reader Comments (13)

I think it'll be Banderas and Haenel for the acting prizes.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

I am rooting for Bong Joon Ho. I've loved him since The Host! I hope this is as good as Mother, his masterpiece

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I would not count out "A Hidden Life" for a big prize.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I was saddened to hear Margot Robbie barely has any lines in the Tarantino film.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

They really need to consider handing out a prize for the Worst Film of the Festival. For every great film, there always has to be a stinker such as The Last Face and Southland Tales.

Reading about Mektoub was kind of fun. I read in a review that 75% of the people at the theater walked out of that film. Wow... I'm sure there were people throwing trash it and such. I kind of love those notorious Cannes screenings. I do shudder the idea of what Kechiche is going to do with the third film. I can understand wanting to showcase explicit sex on cinema but if all you want to do is just show ass and titties. He's in the wrong business. Porno filmmakers have more imagination than this.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I can't wait to see the Almodovar film. I would love for Antonio to finally be in the Oscar conversation.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGwynn1984

"I was saddened to hear Margot Robbie barely has any lines in the Tarantino film."

JoJo don't say that when Tarantino's around he won't accept your hypothesis.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

markgordonuk - That’s literally the joke he was making. Why you got to co-opt it?

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

I'm most excited for the Bong Joon Ho, Sciamma, and Almodovar movies.

Kechiche sold his Palme to finance Mektoub which is...quite something.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

My Predictions were:
Palme d'Or: Pain and Glory
Director: Bong
Grand Prix: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Jury Prize: Les Miserables
Actor: Vlad Ivanov
Actress: Virginia Efira
Screenplay: Elia Suleiman

Now I hear Sciamma isn't on the carpet but Haenel is so I suspect I have Grand Prix wrong sadly.

Fwiw, my favorites of the fest that I saw (I didn't manage to see Almdovar, Tarantino, or Les Miserables): The Lighthouse, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, And Then We Danced, Atlantique, Parasite in that order.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Oh, Sciamma is there! ::crosses fingers::

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I'm really excited to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire based on the early reviews (which I only skimmed to avoid spoilers). Really hope that gets a decent release stateside in 2019 as opposed to a blink-and-you-miss-it limited run in 2020. Bong Joon-ho is always a must-see, as is Porumboiu and, yes, Tarantino, despite my ambivalence toward his recent films.

The Lighthouse wasn't up for the big prize but it feels like a competitor for my year-end best list. Trying to keep my expectations in check.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

Parasite won the Palme d'Or -- pleasantly surprised. Will Korea finally get a spot in the top 5 non-English-language film nominees at the Oscars in 2020?

May 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

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