We all won at Cannes this year
A flurry of acquisitions means American audiences will be able to more easily enjoy movies on their own
Cannes is over. Long live Cannes! The fabulous French film festival has completed its 75e edition last weekend with its strictly closing ceremony in black tie, awarding the Palme d’or to Triangle of Sadness, a vast and extremely entertaining capitalist satire by Ruben Östlund. It’s the second time in a row that Östlund has won Cannes’ top prize, following 2017’s deadpan art world comedy The Square. Seems like the titular geometric shapes are his lucky charms.
“We had only one goal: to really try to make an exciting film for the audience with stimulating content,” the ebullient director said in his acceptance speech. “We wanted to entertain them, we wanted them to ask questions, we wanted them to hang out after the screening and have something to say.” Given how viciously Östlund portrays topless male models, a loose pair of social media influencers, a rude Russian oligarch, a luxury cruiser with an alcoholic Marxist captain, and a Fillipina lavatory cleaner who becomes the queen of all, there is a lot to discuss.
The Swedish filmmaker’s victory and his remarks are a roaring endorsement for brick-and-mortar cinema. The Cannes jury, led by Gallic actor Vincent Lindon, handed out prizes to 10 of the 21 films in competition, an exceptionally generous payout that included two pairs of tied victories as well as 75 others.e Anniversary price. All this recognition traditionally contributes to worldwide distribution, which this year also seems to be synonymous with theatrical release. “We all agree, the main thing with cinema is to watch it in a theatre,” Östlund stressed. “We want to have an experience that we want to share with others.”
American audiences will soon see for themselves, thanks to the wave of acquisitions before, during and after the festival. Of the 21 films in competition, 13 already have distribution in the United States, as do 13 other films which have been shown out of competition as well as in various sidebars such as Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week. Over the next year, art house theaters will be brimming with these 26 movies, and maybe even more. It’s a definite rebound and an encouraging return to pre-pandemic normalcy. It’s also a welcome fix for streaming-only Cassandras: no major digital platform like Amazon, Netflix, or Apple has opened its checkbook to pick up festival titles that have come down in the past two weeks. Non-streamers like A24, NEON, Sony Pictures Classics, IFC Films, along with old-guard players like MGM and upstarts like Utopia, showed a flex that had been missing for years.
The titles, which distributors will release soon, contain real nuggets. Lucas Dhont’s Grand Prix winner, Close, is a heartbreakingly tender look at two young boys reaching puberty and finding their physically loving friendship tested by their classmate’s narrow preconceptions of masculinity. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, double Palmes d’Or, win the 75e Anniversary Prize for Tori and Lokita, a gripping look at two African immigrants scrambling to survive in an unforgiving French hell of drug dealers and limited options. The Best Actor award went to Song-Kang-ho, the endearing Korean performer and star of 2019’s foreign-language blockbuster Parasite. a soft drama about a group of black market baby dealers who form their own surrogate family.
One of Cannes’ craziest and most experimental films, EO, shared the jury prize for its traveling depiction of the travels and labors of a donkey through Poland and Italy. Loyal director Jerzy Skolimowski, at 84 one of cinema’s venerable authors, helmed the picaresque drama, which explores humanity in all its compassion and cruelty. A companion piece and unmistakable homage to Robert Bresson’s classic Au Hasard, Balthazar, EO also played six different animals in the lead role, which Skolimowski was keen to name upon accepting his award. “I would like to thank my donkeys,” he said. “Taco and Pola. The incredible Mariette. Picolino Pettore, from Sicily. And then two donkeys from Lazio: Rocco and Mela. Thank you my donkeys. Big laugh!!!!”
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 sleek but convoluted Korean cop Decision to Leave, a stylish romantic thriller by Hitchcock and De Palma that invites and rewards repeat viewings. Introducing the award was another master of the elegant genre, Nicolas Winding Refn, whose brief words were arguably the best way to sum up the festival’s mission statement. “Cinema is the director’s canvas,” he said. “Cinema is the expression of the director. Movie theater 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 another thought. “And, most importantly: long live the Ramones.”