We All Won at Cannes This Year
A flurry of acquisitions means American audiences will get to more easily enjoy the films for themselves
Cannes is over. Long live Cannes! The fabulously French film festival wrapped its 75th edition last weekend with its de rigeur black-tie closing ceremony, awarding the Palme d’Or to Ruben Östlund’s broad, wildly entertaining capitalist satire Triangle of Sadness. It’s the second time in a row that Östlund nabbed Cannes’ top prize, after 2017’s deadpan art-world cringe comedy The Square. Seems like titular geometric shapes are his lucky charms.
“We had one goal: to really try to make an exciting film for the audience with thought-provoking content,” said the ebullient director in his acceptance speech. “We wanted to entertain them, we wanted them to ask themselves questions, we wanted them—after the screening—to go out together and have something to talk about.” Considering how wickedly Östlund depicts topless male models, a pair of craven social-media influencers, a crass Russian oligarch, a superluxury cruiser with an alcoholic Marxist captain, and a Fillipina toilet cleaner who becomes queen of them all, there’s a lot to discuss.
The Swedish filmmaker’s win, and his remarks, are a roaring endorsement for brick-and-mortar moviegoing. The Cannes jury, led by gallic actor Vincent Lindon, awarded prizes to 10 of the 21 films in competition, an unusually generous disbursement which included two pairs of wins that were ties as well as an additional 75th Anniversary Award. All this recognition traditionally helps with global distribution, which this year also seems synonymous with theatrical exhibition. “All of us agree, the main thing with cinema is watching it in a theater,” stressed Östlund. “We want to have an experience that we want to share with others.”
American audiences will soon see for themselves, thanks to the flurry of acquisitions before, during, and after the fest. Out of the 21 competition films, 13 already have U.S. distribution, as do another 13 films that played out of competition as well as in various sidebars like Un Certain Regard, Director’s Fortnight, and Critics Week. Over the next year, arthouse cinemas will be brimming with these 26 movies—and possibly even more. It’s a definite rebound, and a heartening return to pre-pandemic normalcy. It’s also a welcome corrective to the streaming-only Cassandras: no major digital platforms like Amazon, Netflix or Apple opened up their checkbooks to pick up any festival titles that unspooled over the past two weeks. Non-streamers like A24, NEON, Sony Pictures Classics, IFC Films, plus old guard players like MGM and upstarts like Utopia, showed a flex that’s been missing for years.
The titles, which the distributors will release soon, contain some genuine gems. Lucas Dhont’s Grand Prix winner Close is tender, heartbreaking look at two young boys hitting puberty and finding their physically affectionate friendship tested by their classmate’s narrow-minded preconceptions of masculinity. Two-time Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne won the 75th Anniversary Prize for Tori and Lokita, a gripping look at two African immigrants hustling to survive in a pitiless French netherworld of drug dealers and limited options. Best Actor went to Song-Kang-ho, the endearing Korean performer and star of 2019’s foreign-language blockbuster Parasite. He was one of the main characters in Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s latest, Broker, a gentle drama about a bunch of black-market baby dealers who form their own surrogate family.
One of the wildest and most experimental films at Cannes, EO, shared the Jury Prize for its peripatetic depiction of a donkey’s travels and travails through Poland and Italy. Stalwart director Jerzy Skolimowski, at 84 one of cinema’s venerable auteurs, helmed the picaresque drama, which explores humanity in all its compassion and cruelty. A companion piece and undeniable homage to Robert Bresson’s classic Au Hasard, Balthazar, EO also starred six different animals in the lead role, which Skolimowski made a point of naming when accepting his award. “I would like to thank my donkeys,” he said. “Taco and Pola. The incredible Marietta. Picolino Pettore, from Sicily. And then two donkeys from Lazio: Rocco and Mela. Thank you, my donkeys. Hee-haw!!!!”
Best director went to Park Chan-wook, the beloved genre filmmaker behind Oldboy, The Handmaiden, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Joint Security Area. He won for his stylish though convoluted Korean policier Decision to Leave, a sleek romantic thriller indebted to Hitchcock and De Palma that invites, and rewards, repeat viewings. Introducing the award was another stylish genre master, Nicolas Winding Refn, whose brief words were arguably the best way to summarize the festival’s mission statement. “Cinema is the canvas of the director,” he said. “Cinema is the expression of the director. Cinema is the director. Long live cinema, long live Cannes, long live the director. And long live the future of cinema, because it’s beautiful.” Refn then paused before sharing one more thought. “And, most importantly: long live the Ramones.”