The haze of nonstop filmgoing over twelve days in the south of France lifted on Sunday night as the 2015 edition of the Cannes Film Festival came to a close. The closing night film, Ice and the Sky, directed by Luc Jacquet, was preceded by an hour-long awards ceremony in the Theatre Lumiere. For the press corps, that means watching a live feed from the nearby Theatre Debussy. Since the stars are out of earshot, the press can be very vocal if they disagree with the jury’s choices.
The festivities were hosted by French actor Lambert Wilson, who suavely strolled the stage as he set the stage for the competition prizes. (Other sections gave out awards on the two preceding days.) This year’s jury was headed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and they were joined onstage by the rest of the jury: Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, singer/songwriter Rokia Traoré, Quebecois filmmaking wunderkind Xavier Dolan, Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, and French actress Sophie Marceau.
The ceremony was fairly straightforward, but can someone tell me why the festival thought it was necessary to have John C. Reilly and the Fly Boys do a rendition of “Just a Gigolo”? It was a strange moment. The audience seemed to be sitting in stunned silence, but there was rousing applause when they finished.
Agnès Varda received the Palme d’honneur. It’s similar to an honorary Oscar (TM), given to titans of cinema who have never received the Palme d’or, and it was previously announced. She was clearly moved and spoke eloquently about the field and remember her late husband, Jacques Demy. A lovely moment. Varda is a brilliant filmmaker and this prize was long overdue.
Herewith the awards, along with commentary or personal observations here and there:
The Camera d’or for best first feature went to Land and Shade by Colombian director César Augusto Acevedo. A new award, not part of the awards this evening, was the L’Oeil d’or for best documentary. Translated as Golden Eye, it mimics the first feature award (Golden Camera) in that the winner was chosen from all the documentaries shown in any section of the festival. The same rule applies for first feature - they can be in any section of the festival. This year’s winner was shown in Critics’ Week. This new prize went to Marcia Tambutti Allende’s Beyond My Grandfather Allende.
Best Screenplay went to Michel Franco who also directed the film Chronic, the story of a home health aid (played by Tim Roth) who lives through his dying patients. Franco said that the film began when his film “After Lucia” won Un Certain Regard in 2012. Roth was on that jury and so began their collaboration. Roth was in the audience to cheer his director on.
Best Actress was shared by Roony Mara for her role as a young sales clerk who falls in love with a married woman in the 1950s in Todd Haynes’ Carol and by Emmanuelle Bercot in Mon Roi directed by Maïwenn. Interestingly, Bercot also directed the festival’s Opening Night film, Standing Tall. The Best Actor prize went to (I called it) Vincent Lindon for his striking turn as a middle aged man caught in the struggle to find a job and do right by his family during these terrible economic times in Stéphane Brizé's The Measure of a Man. A mesmerizing performance.
Best Director went to Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin, a beautifully wrought tale of a young woman trained in martial arts in ninth century China. The film reads like a painted scroll; too bad Cannes doesn’t give out awards for art direction. A jury prize was given to The Lobster, a strangely dark and funny with a bite film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose film Dogtooth was a hit on the festival circuit a few years ago.The Grand Prize, which is akin to second place, was given to Son of Saul, a first feature film by Hungarian filmmaker Lázló Nemes, for his claustrophobic concentration camp horror story.
Finally, the Palme d’or went to Jacques Audiard for Dheepan about Sri Lankan refugees in France. This was a bit of a surprise, and it didn’t sit well with everyone: among the press watching one could hear a smattering of boos. Clearly other films were favorites. But Audiard happily took to the stage, bringing his two leads with him, to take the much deserved praise.
Everyone will be talking about these awards for a few more weeks, before attention turns to other festivals. And in a few more months, we’ll start handicapping Cannes 2016! Truly, it never ends.