Last night at a star-studded ceremony in Southern France, the 66th Cannes Film Festival announced the prize winners from its competition strand. Many believed Tunis-born director Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour to be the best film in show, but just as many believed that this year’s Steven Spielberg-led jury would perhaps shy away from its lesbian subject matter and opt only to give the film’s actresses the award instead of the feature. Why this was believed, no one explained. As it happened, however, the actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux received the Palme d’Or along with Kechiche in what was an unprecedented, but absolutely correct decision.
Although it could easily have picked up the big one as a safe choice, the awarding of the Grand Prix prize to the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis was necessary recognition of what was, for many, the leading film until very late in the game. Although that film’s lead actor, Oscar Isaac, would have been a great choice for Best Actor, it would be churlish to deny Bruce Dern his gong, for what was a quiet and perfectly pitched turn as the confused and deluded old man Woody in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. Another brave choice for the jury was the pick of Mexican director Amat Escalante for the Best Director award.
Escalante’s offering Heli is a harrowing and brutal look at the current state of Mexico through the perspective of a family living on ground level. Escalante shows Mexico as a country where any mistake or simple bad luck can bring about the most horrific consequences. With its repulsive torture scene, again the prediction was it would be passed over, with many citing Spielberg’s mainstream sensibility; but this is powerful filmmaking and the jury duly recognised that. Certainly closer to Spielberg’s perceived fascination with daddy issues, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son was a worthy Jury Prize pick and the interweaving morality tales of Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin bagged Best Screenplay.
The general consensus on the Croisette was that this has been one of the strongest lineups for years. Last year was certainly boosted by the arrival of Michael Haneke’s Amour and Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, though earlier entries had been one disappointment after another. This year, the field was much stronger and much wider. Along with the prize winners, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty will certainly find an international audience, and deservedly so. Dutch black comedy Borgman and historical epic Michael Kohlhaas should also be seen in cinemas fairly soon and the festival closed for many with Only Lovers Left Alive: a return to form for Jim Jarmusch, a cult filmmaker who has landed on a subject matter which matches his laconic wit perfectly.
The 66th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 15-27 May, 2013. For more of our Cannes 2013 coverage, simply follow this link.