The prestigious Cannes Film Festival kicked off its landmark 75th annual event on May 17, 2022. The event is regarded as one of the “Big Five” international festivals alongside the Venice, Berlin, Sundance, and Toronto film festivals. Cannes provides an incredible opportunity for filmmakers all over the world to bring their unique projects to esteemed audiences, whether it be a grounded-in-reality story or a completely bizarre and disturbing tale.
Among the programs in the event is the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) award which is given to the director of the best feature film of the year, as voted by the festival’s jury. Following the announcement of this year’s coveted Palme d’Or award, it’s worth taking a look back at the past decade of films that received this honor. It’s also a chance for audiences to examine the wide scope of artistic films that have graced the screens of this festival by checking them out on their respective streaming services.
Beginning the list is the movie Amour for which Austrian director Michael Haneke won his second-ever Palme d’Or. The French film focuses on an elderly married couple, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant). When Anne experiences a stroke followed by a string of ailments, Georges becomes her personal caretaker instead of sending her back to the hospital or a nursing home.
This somber slice-of-life story highlights the true nature of love and dedication through these two characters. Even its heartbreaking ending captures the essence of the film’s title that of course translates to “love”. Amour even won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This touching love story can be streamed on The Criterion Channel.
Another French film, Blue is the Warmest Color (originally titled La vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 & 2), earned Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche the Palme d’Or in 2013. Additionally, the lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, also received the same award as an unprecedented honorary prize. The film is another love story based on the French graphic novel of the same title written by Jul Maroh. With some minor changes to the plot and character names, the story follows Adèle (Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Seydoux) through the years and the result of their changing relationship.
The movie received some criticisms due to the graphic sex scenes that didn’t emulate authentic LGBTQ+ representation according to test audiences and even Maroh. Furthermore, controversy stemmed from the movie based on reports and complaints of poor working conditions for the crew and even the lead actresses. The film still went on to get the top prize for its moving romance and was a prominently known film of 2013. The romantic drama can be streamed on DirecTV or Kanopy.
The 2014 Palme d’Or went to Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan for his drama Winter Sleep. Based on the short story The Wife written by Anton Chekov, the film focuses on Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a wealthy man who works as a hotel owner and landlord in Cappadocia, Turkey. He also has creative passions as a former actor turned columnist writer for a local newspaper. However, he must deal with his duties to the hotel and the conflict within his family, especially concerning his much younger wife, Nihal (Melisa Sözen).
Ceylan’s film serves as a character study that scrutinizes the relationships between the characters, especially Aydin and Nihal’s marriage, which draws from Chekov’s work. The film also exhibits the themes of class inequality and the choices of individuals when comparing Aydin’s idyllic ignorance to the grounded passion of Nihal trying to make a real difference with fundraisers. A slow and philosophical tone permeates through the movie but allowed Ceylan the big win at Cannes. The intense drama can be streamed on Kanopy.
Returning to French cinema, director Jacques Audiard won the top prize for his crime drama Dheepan. The plot is centered on three Tamil refugees fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka who relocate in Paris, France. The protagonist Sivadhasan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) is a former Tamil soldier who ended up on the losing side of the war. In order to get political asylum, he crafts a cover story using the passport of a deceased man named Dheepan Natarajan. He’s accompanied by a woman named Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and a girl named Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) who pretend to be his wife and daughter while in Paris. Being able to settle in the new country in a housing project, Dheepan and his “family” unfortunately discover that their new home is another war zone to a few drug gangs.
Audiard’s film shines a light on the growing humanitarian crisis concerning refugees from war-torn, developing countries that migrate to Europe. It presents a real image of what desperate lengths refugees must go through in life or death situations like in Dheepan. Though the film was deemed a surprising winner among the 2015 candidates, it was an important and timely movie to be part of the Cannes film circuit. The powerful story of endurance can be streamed on The Criterion Channel.
The British drama I, Daniel Blake gave director Ken Loach the esteemed award in 2016. Set in modern-day Newcastle, England, the story shows the titular protagonist, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), and his financial hardship after having a heart attack and not being granted Employment and Support Allowance. In his effort to apply for an appeal, he befriends a struggling single mother named Katie (Hayley Squires) with her two young children. This only fuels Daniel’s frustration with the UK welfare system and his fight to get back to working for a living.
Loach’s bleak film is a hard criticism of the UK government and the Department of Work and Pensions’ response to the unemployment crisis of its citizens. The director even appeared as a panelist on the BBC program Question Time, where he confronted some politicians in charge of the relevant issue at that time. Besides gaining the Palme d’Or win, the film was also awarded the BAFTA for “Outstanding British Film” in 2017. This tale of social justice can be streamed on Hulu.
The Swedish film The Square was next in line to receive the prize for director Ruben Östlund. The narrative focuses on an art museum curator, Christian (Claes Bang), who is required to promote a new art piece called “The Square”. His own personal life distracts him with the robbery of some of his personal belongings and a budding romance with a journalist named Anne (Elizabeth Moss). This all leads him to overlook the assisting advertising agency’s plan for the piece and results in a massive uproar from the media that jeopardizes his job.
The satirical film tackles the contemporary art world where there can often be a disconnect between marketing and art for the sole intent of making money or getting attention. Perhaps it’s most fitting for a film highlighting the sanctity of an artist’s message that can be lost in translation through capitalism to land at a prestigious festival like Cannes and get the top prize. This outrageous film is available to stream on Hulu.
Moving away from European movies, the Japanese film Shoplifters scored the award for director Hirokazu Kore-eda. The story depicts the Shibata family living in poverty whose means of survival depend on the patriarch Osamu (Lily Franky) and his son, Shota (Kairi Jō), shoplifting for food and other necessities. Despite their living conditions, they open up their home generously to a young girl named Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) who’s experiencing abuse from her parents. The family’s lives eventually get put at risk of being arrested regardless of their good intentions and desperate need for survival.
Another film examining the trials of poverty-stricken individuals similar to I, Daniel Blake, Kore-eda brings the Japanese perspective of the issue where the story was influenced by the country’s own recession. The movie provides an excellent cast of characters in the Shibata family that share touching moments and serve as the heart of the story. Shoplifters became the second-ever Japanese film in Cannes history to claim the Palme d’Or prize. This family drama can be streamed on Kanopy.
Perhaps the most popular and well-known film on the list is Bong Joon-Ho‘s dark comedy Parasite. Having some previous notable films that merged Hollywood and Korean talent in Snowpiercer and Okja, Parasite was the movie that made Joon-Ho a global name as it was a prominent part of the 2020 awards season. With Korean media having recently broken through to the Western cultural zeitgeist with its drama series and music, Parasite was warmly welcomed by international audiences.
Its premise follows the Kim family, a lower-class, struggling family of four that gain the opportunity for higher-paying jobs when the son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), is first hired as a tutor by the much richer Park family. The film explores capitalism and class inequality in a thrilling plot that is almost unpredictable but entertaining. Parasite went on to win “Best Foreign Film” at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and Oscars. Most notably though, Parasite even won the Oscar for “Best Picture”, becoming the first non-English language film in history to do so joining Joon-Ho’s Oscar wins for “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Director”. This iconic, decorated film can be streamed on Hulu.
With the pandemic causing the festival to be canceled during 2020, the next Palme d’Or winning film was the unconventional horror drama Titane directed by Julia Ducournau. The film centers on a woman named Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) who suffered from a car crash during her childhood that required a titanium plate to be placed in her head. In her adulthood, her wayward behavior as a showgirl hides a dark, disturbing, and unexplainable secret that she’s hiding from everyone including her distant parents.
The film earned an R-rating for its gore, violence, and sexual content including an infamous scene that involves objectophilia toward a car. Ducournau wasn’t afraid to push the envelope with this film and ultimately, it worked out as she became the second-ever female director to get the prestigious award from Cannes. The wild and daring movie can be streamed on Hulu.
This year’s Palme d’Or winner gave Swedish director, Ruben Östland, his second win of the award for his film Triangle of Sadness. Yet another satirical film with a shape-themed title, but this time focused on the luxury cruise ship experience of a model celebrity couple, Yaya (Charlbi Dean) and Carl (Harris Dickinson). The two end up on the cruise for free thanks to Yaya’s influencer lifestyle and as an escape from Carl’s problem of his potentially washed-up career. They meet their other fellow wealthy passengers who are all comfortable in their own narcissistic prosperity until the cruise is plunged into chaos.
Similar to The Square and even Parasite, Östland’s film is rich with social commentary and aimed at the upper class. It’s directed at the general culture of the Western world’s vainly rich individuals whose lifestyles may leave them out of touch should they land in the real survival situations that unfold in the movie. As of writing, the film currently doesn’t have any attached streaming platforms for distribution but it’s sure to hit a service soon enough.
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