It's been a very good Cannes, crowned with a Palme d'Or which was widely anticipated, and almost yearningly desired by every single person I spoke to at the Festival.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour, by the Franco-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche, is a devastatingly emotional film about a love affair between two young women, with unforgettable notes of sensuality and sadness. The award today undoubtedly has a political dimension, whether or not it was intended that way. Same-sex marriage was made legal in France on 18 May, during the festival. This prize happened to coincide with an anti-gay-marriage march in Paris on Sunday.
Fundamentally, what captured the jury's heart in this movie was the same thing that captured every festivalgoer's heart. Quite simply: it was passionate film-making. So much of the cinema we were offered at Cannes was variously stylish, oblique, affectless, shocking, funny — all of which can make and did make for brilliant film-making. But Kechiche offered passion. He offered the great sweep, the great surge, the great rush of love. He wasn't afraid of letting his story play out at epic length, but this narrative substance did not preclude an extraordinary and compelling intimacy. These were remarkable, courageous performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, who put their trust in their director and carried off demanding, explicit scenes with absolute confidence and integrity. Looking back on Cannes, my one regret is that I gave it just four stars. Its overwhelming emotion stayed in my mind. It deserves five or six stars.
The Grand Prix for the Coens' Inside Llewyn Davis was another very just award. This was a richly enjoyable and fascinating comedy which took on an unfamiliar subject: the early 60s folk scene, and Oscar Isaac stepped up to a starring role, the moody, unhappy singer-songwriter, historically stranded at the end of the pre-Dylan era, considering whether to abandon his musical vocation. The music in the film was superb, and the script was sparkling.
Jia Zhang-ke's screenplay award for A Touch of Sin took me a little by surprise. This is a fascinating movie — one of the best at Cannes — which shows this director boldly moving away from his documentary realism and quietism and experimenting with the brash exploitation drama to satirise China's new cupidity and materialism. I'm delighted to see it rewarded.
I have to confess to being a little agnostic about Hirokazu Kore-eda's heart-wrenching child-swap drama Like Father, Like Son which won the Jury Prize and was much admired here generally. I personally found it a little schematic and inferior (though similar) to his earlier film: I Wish.
The huge surprise is the best director award to the Mexican film-maker Amat Escalante for his shocking Heli, an indictment of the cynicism and lawlessness overtaking Mexico.
It's hard to quarrel with the acting awards. Bruce Dern's touching performance as the querulous, sad old guy in Alexander Payne's Nebraska was a reminder of just how great an actor he is.
Bérénice Béjo was superbly intelligent and self-possessed in Farhadi's The Past: a complex, subdued role. Many were predicting the Palme itself for this film. The acting prize may have been a jury compromise: but Béjo gives a sophisticated, cerebral performance.
On the whole, these were well-judged awards, closing this Cannes shut with a satisfying click.
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image: © Sara Alfred