UPDATED: Talk to anyone on the Croisette and they would have bet that this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or belonged to Pedro Almodovar and his latest movie Pain and Glory.
Not so, as South Korean director Bong Joon-ho finally got his due in his fifth time at Cannes, winning the Palme d’Or for his thriller Parasite about a lower class family who find themselves working in esteemed positions for a rich family — an opportunity that goes very sideways. The film dotes on several themes from class struggle, to global warming with some comedic jabs at North Korea. It’s the first time that South Korea has taken the Palme d’Or home. Parasite is also the second-back-to-back Palme win for an Asian director here at the fest. Last year, Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda took home the Palme for Shoplifters which was nominated in the foreign language category at the Oscars. NEON will be releasing Parasite in the U.S.
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Said Alejandro González Iñárritu on how the jury came to a unanimous decision on Parasite, “The film is such a unique experience, it’s an unexpected film. It took all of us. There’s an unexpected way that the film takes us through different genres, and spoke in a funny way about something so relevant and urgent and global in such a local film with efficiency.”
That said, Iñárritu reiterated that the jury had no political agenda or message to get across in selecting the winner. “The cinema had to speak for itself,” said the Birdman director about the 21 titles they sifted through.
Said Elle Fanning, who was the youngest member on this year’s jury, “It’s a fable, a beautiful fable, it deals with issues that felt personal and vulnerable and emotional. It’s quite precious.”
Iñárritu mentioned he was grateful for Fanning’s presence as a “millennial” on the jury, providing a fresh perspective on cinema versus the older members.
Iñárritu and Fanning appeared tonight with six other members of this year’s Cannes jury, including directors Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy), Robin Campillo (120 BPM), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War). Iñárritu is the first jury president from Mexico in Cannes history.
Parasite in its encore screening this afternoon at Cannes played to great cheers at the Debussy Theatre, both during a riveting middle section of the film and when the credits rolled. Last time Joon-ho was here, he had Okja, a Netflix movie which as we know rubbed French exhibitors the wrong the way because it was a movie from the streaming service.
Some had a theory that Parasite was a dark horse: Given the sharp, thrilling camera movements in the film, it’s the type of cinema the Oscar-winning Birdman director would embrace.
Iñárritu told Deadline before the festival, “I really believe in the liberating and humanizing power of cinema. I believe that images and ideas that are carried by stories can have the power to strike you in your solar plexus, and really change your mind…The world is ending, and we’re watching beautiful films.” That said, is there’s one film that hits you in the guy when it comes to the class war between rich and poor — it’s Parasite.
Iñárritu said he agreed with Michael Moore’s comments tonight on stage about cinema today, “how art is a reflection of the world.”
Below are some excerpts from winners at the Cannes awards press conference:
Young Ahmed follows a Belgian teenager who hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran. Luc Dardenne, who with his brother Jean-Pierre Dardenne, said, “We never received this award. We were dreaming of it when we saw the Coen Brothers get it. We thought this is really good for directors to get this award because they deal with the actors, the DP, sound engineers and the whole crew.”
The brothers were impressed by their young star Idir Ben Addi who served up some surprises for them on set during the 45-50 day shoot. “As Truffaut was saying, you don’t direct a child, you give them some landmarks and an atmosphere, but he surprised us every so often,” said Jean-Pierre Dardenne.
“Cinema portrays life,” said Luc, “it leaves things which the movie captures with the movement of the body. We were trying to film a young boy who is fanaticized. His mind and body are thinking of his cousin who is a martyr…Religion educates the body.”
Bacurau which shared the jury prize with Ladj Ly’s Les Miserables follows a filmmaker who decides to travel to a village in the interior of Brazil to make a documentary. As days go by, he begins to discover that the locals are not exactly what they appear to be and hide dangerous secrets.
Said the pic’s co-director Kleber Mendonça Filho, “The jury recognized what is a genre film. These films go under the radar at festivals. We’ve been developing this project for ten years and it’s a genre film, and it’s about Brazil and community and violence and we hope the prize will put a spotlight on the film.”
“There’s a feeling that Brazil is being torn down from the inside, so I hope this prize will help us get funding,” said Filho about the soured state film financing for pics in Brazil.
Celine Sciamma took best screenplay for her film Portrait of Lady on Fire which NEON is handling in a distribution deal with Hulu. The film follows a female painter, Marianne, in Brittany in the 18th century who falls in love with her young subject Heloise, the daughter of a countess. Heloise is promised to a suitor. Marianne is tasked with painting Heloise’s wedding portrait. Critics made comparison to Alfred Hitchcock (specifically Rebecca). Sciamma spoke about the pic’s eroticism.
“The erotic dimensions of the film wasn’t fought over by anybody. There was great complicity and a mutual understanding (with the actors). I’m very pleased audiences found this to be erotic, because some people said it lacked eroticism. I tried to provide eroticism through new images,” said the filmmaker.
Winning best actor for Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory was a bittersweet moment for Antonio Banderas as his maestro wasn’t there to also win. Banderas plays a film director in the pic who reflects on his life choices as his world comes crashing down around him. Many read into the film that Banderas was playing Almodovar, and indeed, he acknowledged that tonight here in Cannes: “Yes, there is something of him (in the role).”
“There is the title Pain and Glory,” said Banderas drawing a connection to his current feelings about winning and Almodovar losing.
Banderas continued, “Today, the glory I live it. After 40 years, I’ve been nominated for practically everything but the Oscar. I’ve never been called to the stage at the Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globes — they never called me. Today is good news for my cardiologist: For a second, I thought I was going to faint.”
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