The 74th Cannes Film Festival has come to a close. It certainly was a momentous occasion, not least because it actually happened, despite the pandemic.
It certainly will be an edition to remember. The first black Jury president in the event’s history made the biggest gaffe ever at the closing ceremony, and nearly everyone either cried, forgot their lines, or spoke without translation.
I thoroughly enjoyed the closing ceremony, it was an immensely amusing spectacle from beginning to end, but probably unintentionally so.
From our position in the Debussy press theatre, we could see it all: the red carpet arrivals, and the camera operator who relayed images of people’s feet and the stairs onto the big screen and the poor MC Doria Tillier who had to help out the jury members when they messed up their cues.
The best part was that it seemed completely improvised. That such a high profile evening should veer away from protocol, made it exceptional, and quite touching, a grand finale to match the crazy two weeks.
The first awards to be announced was for the Cinéfondation short film prize which went to All the Crows in the World directed by Tang Yi, who leapt up on stage and thanked everyone and even threw in a job announcement for someone to hire her wonderful Chinese leading lady.
This was followed by the Caméra d’Or prize for best first film which went to Murina by Croatian director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, in the Directors’ Fortnight category who couldn’t be there to accept because she’d just given birth to her first child a few hours earlier (more applause).
Then there was the second Honorary Palme d’or, which went to Marco Bellocchio, Italian filmmaker who was applauded loudly, for a long time. He made his acceptance speech in Italian, for about 10 minutes, with no translation. Mmmm – bellissimo! But what did he say? Basta!
Then the jury came on stage – Maggie Gyllenhaal in an eye-catching fire engine red skirt, which contrasted nicely to Tahar Rahim’s white pimp suit and little black boots. The others looked very neat and tame, except Mylène Farmer who showed off her long legs in a short fluffy black number.
“Cannes is my second film…err…my second home,” jury president Spike Lee announced when he came on stage in his rainbow suit and chauffeur’s hat. “I love you.” Mmmm that definitely set the tone.
When the MC asked Lee to reveal the name of the recipient of the first award, he stood up, rustled his piece of paper and mumbled; the Palme d’Or goes to Titane! Oops!!
Panic at the disco! The MC quickly tried to smooth over the mistake, and the other Jury members jumped up to steady Lee who looked a bit wobbly, realizing he’d just announced what was normally kept to the end.
OK, let’s start again said the MC. It was now on to the award for best male actor.
And the winner was American actor Caleb Landry Jones, for his role in Nitram by Australian director Justin Kurzel.
He came on stage completely bewildered and flustered. He spluttered into the microphone and all he could manage were sounds of surprise, shock and the words thank you, throwing in the name of the director before rushing off the stage.
This was the only film I had “money” on so to speak, as you will know from reading my appreciation of this film in Cannes #11.
“I never expected to win anything,” he told RFI after the ceremony. “It just seems too unreal. It belongs in some piece of surrealism or something.”
The reaction was much the same from Renate Reinsve, the woman who played Julie in Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World. She simply said thank you for being able to have so much fun making the film.
Ex aequo (joint prize)
So many of the winners seemed shocked and surprised to be anywhere near the stage, as if they suddenly lost all their confidence and were not expecting a win, which made it quite the blubber fest and lots of popping into the microphone.
Th announcement of two shared prizes in the evening lead to some confusion and a bit of a tussle over who would hold the coveted trophy. For example the Jury Prize, which went jointly to Ahed’s Knee by Nadav Lapid and Memoria, by Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
While the Grand Prize went to Iranian director Ashgar Farhadi for his film A Hero, and Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen for Compartment No.6 who thanked everyone…even the men and women who open the doors of the fancy cars in Cannes!
Then Spike Lee got a chance to redeem himself but he nearly fluffed it again.
Sharon Stone came on stage to present the Palme d’or, and her eyes boggled in a curious bird-like way as she smiled her Hollywood smile. Lee must have been bowled over by her glowing white dress because he nearly blurted out the answer again too soon…
Second woman to win Palme d'or
She took his hand comfortingly as she announced the winner: Titane by French director Julia Ducournau, to thuderous applause.
The violent futuristic sex and robot romp might not be for all viewers, but it was obviously awarded for its bold and daring approach.
The young French director, towering over the microphone in her heels just couldn’t stop shaking as she gasped for breath. “I don’t know why I’m speaking English right now because I’m French,” she said to giggles from the audience. “I’m going to speak French because my parents are watching,” she went on, referring to a childhood ritual when her family would gather around to watch the ceremony.
“I’m the second woman to win the Palme d’Or, and I often wonder what it felt like for Jane Campion (first woman to win Palme d’or in 1993). I think the way has been opened, I’m optimistic.”
She then got to hug Spike Lee, and all the members of the jury before gathering for the big photo session with the other winners.
As the festival draws to a close, I look back over the films I saw, and yes, there were a few duds when I came away feeling disappointed, and there were films I regret I missed.
It’s all a bit of a gamble really. You size up the selection and you place your bets, hoping to pick a winner. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.
Perfection is not the objective
In her closing words, Julia Ducournau said: “My film is not perfect, but I’m here tonight. I’ve realized that perfection is not an ideal, it is an impasse.”
This, in a way, sums up the Cannes film festival in its essence – it is a celebration of filmmaking with all its experimentation, hard work and splendor; the culmination of an expensive gamble. Cannes is where people show films which will not please everyone, that will shock, delight or disgust.
My highlight of the week, among other things, was being able to talk to the filmmakers, and actors, to quiz them about their motives, the whys and hows. Even if I didn’t like their films, I appreciate the effort gone in to making it and the fact that they had the courage to follow their dreams.