No one can see everything in competition at the Cannes Film Festival – there were 21 titles this year – and certainly not me. So without passing judgment on all of the titles that received awards on Saturday, I have to say that I’m impressed by the fact that all five eligible English language titles – Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City and Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s Black Flies , ” Firebrand” by Karim Aïnouz, “May December” by Todd Haynes and “The Old Oak” by Ken Loach – were completely passed over by the jury.
Needless to say, it’s not the mandate of the Cannes jury – which this year includes Paul Dano, Brie Larson and recent Palme d’Or winners Ruben Östlund (The Square 2017 and Triangle of Sadness 2022) and Julia Ducournau ( 2021) belonged ( Titane) – to try to predict the Oscar race. But it’s still noteworthy to me that after several consecutive years of significant overlap between the decisions of the Cannes jurors and those of the Academy – particularly when Parasite won the top prizes of both – it seems unlikely that that will be the case much, if anyway, this year.
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The Academy is of course primarily focused on English language work, although it is becoming a more international organisation. And there’s plenty of academy-friendly work in the five overlooked English-language titles, notably the excellence of Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore as actress and the woman who will play her in May/December, which Netflix bought for $11 million Dollars at the festival and plans to push for awards; Alicia Vikander and Jude Law as Katherine Parr and King Henry VIII respectively in Firebrand, which is still awaiting US distribution; and Tye Sheridan and Sean Penn as a young man preparing for medical school and a veteran paramedic, respectively, in Black Flies, which will distribute Open Road in America.
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Two other English-language films screened at the festival, albeit out of competition, are sure to receive big Oscar picks: Paramount and Apple TV+’s Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, with standout roles by Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons (Scorsese and his supporters chose not to screen the film in competition); and Pixar’s newest film, Elemental, which closed the festival.
Which films were awarded?
The one with the greatest Oscar potential could be Grand Prix winner The Zone of Interest, British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer’s German-language portrait of the life of the Höss family outside the gates of Auschwitz, a true study in the banality of evil . There will certainly be an Oscar nudge from A24, which also directed Glazer’s most recent predecessor, Under the Skin, a decade ago; As with this project, I have no doubt it will be widely embraced by critics – but I’m not entirely convinced it’s the Academy thing. Even the way it begins, with several minutes of blank screen, struck many I spoke to as pretentious and may lose interest from Academy members trying to watch it at home via the members-only streaming service of the view academy.
It seems unlikely to me that Germany would submit a film by a non-German filmmaker and/or a film that so poorly reflects the behavior of the German population during World War II as an entry for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film So the film could be its leading lady Sandra Hüller, who plays Mrs. Höss in The Zone of Interest – and also stars in the Palme d’Or winning film, Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, in which she plays a writer who is trying to prove her innocence in her husband’s death. (Had Huller’s films not won the festival’s first two awards, she likely would have won Best Actress, but Cannes juries generally prefer to neglect her honors.)
Anatomy of a Fall is distributed in the US by Neon, which also handled US distribution for the last French film to win the Palm, Titane, which was eventually submitted by France for an Oscar entry but was not shortlisted . This season, France must decide whether it’s ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ or ‘The Pot-au-Feu’, for which Tran Anh Hung won the Best Director award, with French favorites Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel submits or not might have more mainstream appeal. The pot-au-feu is still seeking distribution in the US.
A Jury Prize went to Fallen Leaves, the latest film from Finnish master Aki Kaurismäki, who previously represented his country in the Oscar race for Best International Feature Film with 1996’s Drifting Clouds, which was disqualified; 2002’s The Man With No Past was nominated; Lights in the Dusk from 2006 until it was withdrawn; and Le Havre 2011, which was not nominated. MUBI will distribute it in the US
Best Screenplay was awarded to Yuji Sakamoto for the Japanese film Monster, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, who previously represented his country with 2004’s Nobody Knows, which was not nominated; and 2018’s “Shoplifters,” which was nominated. US distribution is still being sought.
Merve Dizdar won the Best Actress award for her role in the Turkish film About Dry Grasses, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylon, who previously represented his country with 2003’s Distant, which was not nominated; 2008’s “Three Monkeys,” which was shortlisted; 2011’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, which was not nominated; 2014’s “Winter Sleep,” which was not nominated; and 2018’s The Wild Pear Tree, which was not nominated. US distribution is still being sought.
And then there’s the amazing Japanese actor Kōji Yakusho, who won Best Actor for Perfect Days, a Japanese-German co-production directed by legendary German filmmaker Wim Wenders. Neon is reportedly inking a deal for the film’s US distribution rights. Wenders already represented Germany in 1977 with “The American Friend”, which, however, was not nominated; 1987’s Wings of Desire, which was not nominated; and 2011’s “Pina,” which was shortlisted. However, it remains to be seen whether Japan or Germany would submit a co-production this season.
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