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End of the Road: The Prizes at Cannes 2017

The Beguiled

Do the awards tell us anything about the upcoming season in cinema? Or are they simply a collection of prizes that may or may not help a film through the churning waters of exhibition?

The Cannes 2017 competition jury included four women: American actor Jessica Chastain, French filmmaker Agnes Jaoui, German director Maren Ade, and Chinese actor Fan Bingbing, and five men: American actor Will Smith, directors Paolo Sorentino from Italy and Park Chan-wook from Korea, French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared, and Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who served as president.

The male/female ratio of the jury is in line with past juries, as a cursory look at juries from the last dozen or so years. There may be three to four women each year - but never more than four, by the way, so men are always in the majority. Just sayin.’ So it wasn’t equal opportunity pressure that made Sofia Coppola only the second female to receive the best director prize (the first was Yuliya Solntseva for ‘The Chronicle of Flaming Years’ in 1961 - remember her?). Or maybe it was. 56 years? And, by the way, Jane Campion is still the only female Palme d’or winner, for ‘The Piano’ in 1993. Coppola was sure to mention Campion as an inspiration.

Coppola won for ‘The Beguiled, ‘ her rendition of Thomas P. Cullinan's ‘A Painted Devil,’ a story first brought to the screen by Don Siegel. Coppola came under fire because of the absence of black characters in a Civil War tale, but she has explained again and again her reasons, so in my view she’s acquired herself.

I have never seen the 1971 version - Clint Eastwood stars and, sorry, I’ve never been a fan. Now that he’s become a doddering conservative apologist, I’m happy to see I’ve been on the correct side of cinematic politics! In any event, Coppola tells her story from the point of view of the women in the house. It stars Nicole Kidman and the cast also includes Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and a young Addison Riecke, with Colin Farrell as the hapless soldier Riecke discovers.

Other women felt the love at the awards ceremony, in addition to Diane Kruger winning best actress for ‘In the Fade’ - no male competition in this category! Nicole Kidman won a special 70th anniversary award (just for being her, I guess, as well as all the Cannes films she’s appeared in). And the Camera d’Or for best first feature, went to Leonor Serraille for her Un Certain Regard entry ‘Jeune Femme.’

British filmmaker Lynne Ramsey shared the screenplay prize with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. Ramsey’s film, ‘You Were Never Really Here’ stars Joaquin Phoenix as a disturbed killer for hire who puts himself out to save a teenage girl.

As for the rest of the awards, the boys were back in town. Not that many of the awards weren’t well-deserved. Joaquin Phoenix won best actor for his turn in ‘You Were Never Really Here,’ mentioned above. And ‘Loveless,’ a wrenching drama of a missing child of extremely dysfunctional parents by Andrey Zvyagintsev received the jury prize. Grand prize went to Robin Campillo’s touching story of Act Up in France, ‘120 Beats per Minute.’

The grand prize and jury prize can be seen as second and third place, respectively, and are not always awarded. The Palme d’Or is awarded every year, and this year it went to Ruben Ostlund’s uncomfortable social examination, ‘The Square.’ Proving that the boys always win? That art always wins? Proving nothing, actually, except to show the choices of a conscientious group of jurors. They can go home happy to have discharged their duties!

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