(Mostly) coming to a streaming service or a theater near you
A rejuvenated, fully-post-Covid Cannes, newly relevant to both global theater owners and Oscar prognosticators, ended its latest edition with a historic win. Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet’s courtroom thriller about a wife on trial for the murder of her husband, walked away with the Palme d’Or, only the third time a female filmmaker won the festival’s top prize in its 76 years.
Presenting the award was Jane Fonda, who opened with remarks about her first time in Cannes exactly 60 years ago, back in 1963. “A lot of you weren’t even born! Oh my God,” she sighed. “There were no women directors competing at that time, and it never even occurred to us that there was something wrong with that.”
She then cited the seven women filmmakers in competition this year—a great sign, although barely one-third of the full lineup. “We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” she said. “Still, we have to celebrate change when it happens.” And what a celebration that followed when she asked jury president Ruben Östlund to announce Triet’s victory: a 3-minute standing ovation from the 2,000 people attending the ceremony.
North American moviegoers will see Anatomy of a Fall later in the coming months thanks to NEON, which nabbed distribution rights the week before its big win. Amazingly, this is the fourth film in a row that NEON has picked up which went on to win the Palme D’Or, after Parasite, Titane, and Triangle of Sadness—a remarkable feat that not even a powerhouse like Miramax was able to pull off during its 1990s heyday. It’s also NEON’s fourth Cannes film for 2023, by far the most of any U.S. distributor at this point.
NEON has rights to prize-winner Perfect Days, Wim Wenders’ modest but deeply emotional drama about the days and nights of a toilet cleaner in Tokyo. Its star, Koji Yakusho, walked away with the Best Actor award for his quiet, sometimes completely wordless and deceptively profound portrayal of the humble janitor with a mysterious past. They also picked up Pablo Berger’s animated film Robot Dreams, a delightful yet utterly heartbreaking story about a friendship between a dog and a robot in a 1980s New York populated with cartoon animals. And they came to Cannes already having rights to Alicia Rohrwacher’s La Chimera, one of the strongest films in competition not to win any awards as well as a beguiling fantasy-tinged adventure, also set in the 1980s, with Josh O’Connor as a grave robber who divines the locations of Etruscan treasures with his merry band of thieves.
Another fantastic Competition movie that walked away empty-handed was Todd Haynes’ May December, a remarkably complex, unexpectedly funny, and emotionally fraught hall-of-mirrors melodrama starring Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman that both sends up and honors the soap-opera plot lines of supermarket-tabloid transgressions, putting a human face on sensationalized stories. The secrets-and-lies meta-potboiler claimed the biggest prize of the week: Netflix acquired North American rights for $11 million, instantly positioning it as the streamer’s highest-profile Oscar bait for the upcoming awards season.
The second-place Grand Prix winner was The Zone of Interest, the most harrowing film Cannes unspooled this past week. Jonathan Glazer’s stunning adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel depicts with lacerating restraint and in blistering detail the quotidian domestic life of Auschwitz’s commandant and his family. They’re all cocooned inside a handsomely appointed upper-class house right adjacent to the concentration camp’s outside perimeter. A24 helped produce this brilliantly bleak look at the dark side of human nature—Glazer’s first film since 2013’s Under the Skin, which A24 also distributed. Time will tell how the Oscar-dominating company of 2023 will position this unnerving and at times almost surreal Holocaust horror show for the coming awards season.
Mubi will release deadpan auteur Aki Kaurismäki’s late-life Finnish romance Fallen Leaves, which won the third-place Jury Prize; and Well Go USA has rights to the Best Screenplay winner, Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s tender multiple-perspective coming-of-age drama Monster. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses, an intimate and quite moving three-hour emotional epic about a school teacher in rural Turkey, won Merve Dizdar the award for Best Actress. Sideshow will be releasing it stateside in the coming year.
No word yet on who in the U.S. will take a chance on the film which won Best Director, Tran Anh Hùng’s The Pot-Au-Feu. Most critics embraced this sumptuous ode to early 20th century culinary arts—except the French, who apparently don’t like movies that celebrate their own country’s exquisite knack for divine food preparation. No matter: whoever positions this Juliette Binoche vehicle with enough savvy and skill will be feasting at the box office.