Only two of my predictions for Cannes’s feature film awards held any note of accuracy. As certain as I was that Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” would take a prize (either Michael Caine for Best Actor or a Jury Prize for the film) it came up empty handed. Still, the film’s provocative poster will surly help ensure that it find its audience far and wide.
I did manage to predict better than half of the Best Actress award however. Not only did I foresee Rooney Mara winning for her splendid performance in Todd Haynes’s “Carol” but I also guessed that the honor would be shared with another actress, even if I did fall short on foretelling that Emmanuelle Bercot (“Mon Roi”) would be the other selection (I supposed Cate Blanchett would split the prize).
While critics such as The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw feigned indignation at Jacques Audiard’s social realist drama “Dheepan” for winning the Palme d’Or, I had it down to win Best Screenplay (that award went to Michel Franco for “Chronic”). “Dheepan” (played by Jesuthasan Antonythasan) is the name of a Tamil Tiger, a freedom fighter in the Sri Lanka Civil War. Dheepan flees the country for Paris with two strangers (a mother and daughter). Upon settling into a rundown Paris suburb, the makeshift family discovers a different but equally violent social condition that requires Dheepan to once again take on the role of a tiger.
Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien has been a household name in Cannes for many years. His 1987 film “Daughter of the Nile” premiered in the Director’s Fortnight at the 1988 festival. Hsiao-Hsien’s 1993 film “The Puppetmaster” won the festival’s Jury Prize that same year. That the much-admired director should be awarded this year’s Best Director Palme for “The Assassin” seems fitting. The film is a visually lush story about Nie Yinnaing, a general’s daughter abducted by a nun to be trained as an efficient killing machine. Ordered to kill the man to whom she was once promised Yinnaing must choose between two opposing ways of life. It isn’t a martial arts film per se, but the action scenes fit the storyline with blinding economy and breathtaking ferocity.
French native Vincent Lindon’s win in the Best Actor category, for his skillfully understated performance as an unemployed French family man who finally finds a job working as a security officer at a department store (in Stephane Brize's "The Measure of a Man"), is in accord with this year’s thematic through-line of films in the festival regarding social injustices in France. Lindon's persuasive bearing as a seen-it-all French everyman conveys a rare breed of integrity, well deserving of the Best Actor honor for which he eloquently thanked the Cannes jury.
It isn’t often that a first-time filmmaker captures the imagination the way Laszlo Nemes did with his Grand Prize-winner “Saul Fia” ("Son of Saul"), a devastating holocaust drama about a Jewish Hungarian father (Geza Rohig) forced to work in the Nazi extermination machinery. The prestigious award should aid in bringing audience attention to this powerful movie that impressed everyone who saw it at the festival.