In a spectacular upset of what 4,000 film critics and Cannes Market delegates had believed to be the short list of the best films this year, the 68th Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or went to Jacques Audiard on May 24 for the Tamil language narrative “Dheepan”.
The winning film is the story of three Sri Lankan refugees who become a family in order to gain asylum in France. Sivadhasan acquires the passport of of a dead man, Dheepan. His wife Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and 9-year-old daughter, Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) pose as his real family. After arrival, they live in a Paris suburb under nightmarish conditions. Since Dheepan and Yalini are a fake couple they are unable to raise Illayaal who begins acting out at school. On top of that Yalini goes to work as a home-health aid for a senior involved in drug trafficking.
Antonythasan Jesuthasan who plays Dheepan. is a former child soldier with the Sri Lankan militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He came to France in the 80’s and later became a promising writer.
Audiard has previously been at Cannes with the romantic drama “Rust and Bone” (2012) and the prison drama “A Prophet” (2009). “Dheepan” was completed right on the deadline for submission to the 2015 festival and like “La Vie d’Adèle” by Abdellatif Kechiche that won the Palme d’Or in 2013, the print screened lacked final credits.
The surprise choice was explained by the inseparable jury presidents, Joel and Ethan Coen: “this is not a jury of film critics but artists”. The rather paradoxical and apologetic defense goes against the reality that filmmakers such as François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jean Luc Godard were all film critics and that film critics also serve on official juries at Cannes.
“The Lobster” by Yorgos Lanthimos won the jury prize, a film where singles in the future have 45 days fo find a mate or become the animal of their choice. On hand at the festival were the director and actors Yorgos Lanthimos, Ariane Labad, Léa Seydoux, Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and Jessica Barden.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien won the best director award for ‘The Assassin”. Based on a short story from the 9th century Tang dynasty, Hsiao-Hsien said there were a lot of female assassins at that time. Given this premise, lead actress Shue Qi was asked if after working in three films with the director he actually focused on women in this film. “No, not women, nor men”, she replied, “but smoke and fire and wind”.
Much of “The Assassin” has to do with the use of the camera in scenes involving elaborate details for costume, make up, and movement of the figures in the screen and with breathtaking imagery by cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bing.
Rooney Mara shared the best acting award this year for “Carol”–not with Cate Blanchett as expected, but Emmanuelle Bercot for ‘My King’, a film by French director Maïwenn about a dysfunctional relationship. Mara, as Therese, is regarded as the stand out actor of the relationship she has with Carol. Her intensity and curiousity lends credence to the highly problematic relationship between two women at a time in the 1950’s of America when it was considered immoral.
Vincent Lindon won best actor for “The Measure of a Man” about an unemployed factory worker, directed by Stéphane Brizé
This year’s Queer Palm goes to Todd Haynes “Carol” from the all female jury presided over by Desiree Akhavan: Ava Cahen, French journalist, Laëtitia Eïdo, French actress, Elli Mastorou, French journalist, and Nadia Turincev, Franco-Russian film producer. The award was announced on May 23.
The award to “Carol” was given for “its performance to crack the heart in neat and distinguished scenes and for Todd Hayne’s impressive mastery of cinematic art” Special mention went to “The Lobster” by Yorgos Lanthimos. According to Desiree Akhavan it is “a film that contains nothing ‘gay’, but which stands out for the way it mocks the absurd social norms and conventions on sex. A perfect allegory, which echoes a lack of openly gay representation in Cannes.”
The 2012 Queer Palm was given to Xavier Dolan’s ‘Laurence Anyways’. It was the only year that a director disagreed with his/her film being perceived as representative of queer cinema. Akhavan explained that it is important for filmmakers today to enlarge the concept of what is meant by queer cinema. Dolan can be regarded as a director who though openly gay narrowly defines what is meant by queer as pure categorization. Akhavan defines how the term queer and consequently the Queer Palm goes beyond the borders of putting films into categories amd into expanding the frontiers of diversity. Xavier Dolan served on the official jury at Cannes this year
Agnès Varda received a special lifetime achievement award at the closing ceremony of this year’s festival – the first woman selected for this distinction in the company of only three other directors — Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci The award honors the global impact of her work.