The Movie Waffler Cannes 2016 - Who Won? Who Should Have Won? | The Movie Waffler

Cannes 2016 - Who Won? Who Should Have Won?

Our man in Cannes reports from Sunday night's awards ceremony and gives his verdict on the winners.

Words by John Bennett (@johnbennett812)

The Cannes Film Festival officially wrapped up on Sunday night with its closing ceremony, an event that had all of the glamour of the Oscars with a third of the running time. The live performances were entertaining and succinct. At one point, a band played different arrangements of music from past Palme d’Or winners. Michel Legrand’s legendary music from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was played on a wailing trumpet, and a chorus of tenors sang M*A*S*H’s “Suicide is Painless” to Donald Sutherland, who, as a member of this year’s jury, was on stage for most of the event. Every now and then, a strain of Georges Delerue’s score from Contempt could be heard; the flood of emotion and cinephilia that music inspires set the perfect scene for the bestowing of awards from the world’s most prestigious film festival. Below, you can find a list of what won those awards, as well as reactions to how justified the winners were.

Best Actor

Who won: Shahab Hosseini for The Salesman

Why he won: Hosseini gave a very strong, very unsettling performance as Emad, a mild-mannered literature teacher and actor who proves to be capable of great cruelty against the man who attacked his wife. Donald Sutherland served on the festival jury - his characters from films like The Day of the Locust (1975) and Ordinary People (1980) could find a contemporary Iranian counterpart in Hosseini’s Emad, so it’s possible that a performance sensibility from the jury’s most prominent actor could have swayed the jury towards giving the award to Hosseini.

Who should have won: Hosseini was a fine choice, as would have been Adam Driver for Paterson or Damien Bonnard for Staying Vertical. In Staying Vertical, Bonnard had the difficult task of making bizarre, often ridiculous sexual and emotional situations seem real and moving, and I thought he did a great job.

Best Actress

Who won: Jaclyn Jose for Ma’ Rosa

Why she won: Cannes had a social conscience this year, as evinced by the awarding of the Palme d’Or to Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. Ma’ Rosa shares I, Daniel Blake’s commitment to representing poverty through a sort of cinematic exposé. What’s more, Jose’s performance had a certain spunk that still managed to be realistic. Her performance was like Giulietta Masina’s Nights of Cabiria (a performance that won the same award in 1957) but with a more modern sense of verisimilitude.

Who should have won: Jose’s performance was very good, but I would have given the award to either Sonia Braga for Aquarius or Isabelle Huppert for Elle. Braga was a favorite for her fiery performance as Clara, a cancer survivor who stands firm amid persistent intimidation on the part of a real estate company that wants her to move out of her apartment building. Braga carries this long, intentionally amorphous film, a true testament to her skill as an actress. In Elle, Huppert plays a video-game company executive in a performance that’s nuanced enough to leave us asking the question: is this woman a monster or his she toweringly and fiercely independent and to be admired? She lends class and prestige to this wonderfully scandalous film.

Best Director

Who won: Cristian Mungiu for Graduation and Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper

Why they won: I like to think Cristian Mungiu won because he is simply the best. His direction is full of raw energy without being ostentatiously stylised. The moodiness of his images matches that of his characters perfectly. As for Assayas, we should remember that Cannes is a French festival, and it’s good for national cultural pride (and the French are big on that) when a French director or film wins an award.

Who should have won: I can’t knock Assayas or Personal Shopper (though many have), because it was one of the four films in competition that I didn’t have a chance to see. I like Assayas, but I like Mungiu much more, so I’ll let my viewing experience guide me to assume that Mungiu was the more deserving of the two. I also would have considered Cristi Puiu for Sieranevada, Bruno Dumont for Slack Bay, Andrea Arnold for American Honey, Chan-Wook Park for The Handmaiden, Maren Ade for Toni Erdmann or Paul Verhoeven for Elle, among others. There really was no shortage of great directorial talent in competition this year.

Best Screenplay

Who won: Asghar Farhadi for The Salesman

Why he won: Cannes is a heavily auteurist film festival, so it makes sense that they would give the screenplay award to someone who also directed his or her own work. This is buoyed by the fact that The Salesman did a great job of mixing art house sensibilities into a more traditional revenge drama format. As in many Farhadi movies, secrets and withheld information are revealed bit by bit, with each piece of information enriching and complicating the story.

Who should have won: I think Farhadi is one of the best filmmakers alive and working so I can’t believe that I’m saying this: Seo-Kyung Chung and Chan-Wook Park should have won for The Handmaiden. The plot of their screenplay for Park’s thriller consistently delights with its twists and turns. Though the plot is convoluted, it’s never too convoluted for us to have a clear idea of what’s happening. And once everything we thought we knew is shattered, the screenwriters make it a joy to put the pieces back together in a different arrangement. The dialogue is great too. In describing the rich uncle Kouzuki, one handmaiden describes how he is “the biggest booklover among the rich, and richest among the booklovers.” The film is full of such well put lines.

The Jury Prize (3rd Place)

What won: American Honey, directed by Andrea Arnold

Why it won: There was a lot of buzz that this mid-western epic would win something. It’s also a road movie, and jury president George Miller is a road movie kind of director from The Road Warrior (1981) to Max Max: Fury Road (2015) to Babe, Pig in the City (1998). Maybe he saw some of his own style and themes in Arnold’s work.

What should have won: This, or Maren Ade’s father-daughter comedy-drama Toni Erdmann. I thought neither American Honey nor Toni Erdmann were the best films in competition, but I think Ade and Arnold are great talents. I love the breathless sweep in American Honey just like I love the hilariously cringe-worthy representation of social insecurity in Toni Erdmann. It’s also high time that more awards be given to women directors, whose movies are just as good as those of their male contemporaries.

The Grand Prix (2nd Place)

What won: It’s Only the End of the World, directed by Xavier Dolan

Why it won: Maybe it was a backlash against the backlash; Dolan’s film was so quickly and completely dismissed that the director accused journalists of influencing each other without reflecting on the movie itself. Maybe the jury tried to show it was capable of judgment not influenced by the critical zeitgeist.

What should have won: I saw It’s Only the End of the World two nights ago, and after having thought about it, I must say that I still think it’s shrill and terrible. A much better choice for the second place prize at Cannes would have been Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, the story of a bus driver poet living in the eponymous New Jersey town. Paterson was simple without being bare, humorous without being jokey, and lyrical without being overripe. It’s a great American movie that deserved some form of recognition….ah well, there’s always award season.

La Palme d’Or

What won: I, Daniel Blake

Why it won: From the start, Ken Loach’s drama about an elderly man unable to receive social benefits from a hostile bureaucracy had received plenty of accolades. And to boot, its strong, straightforward emotional content made it stand out in the midst of early competition bizarrerie (among films like Sieranevada, Slack Bay, and Staying Vertical). It’s also important to consider that in recent history, Palme d’Or winners have often been socially engaging in one way or another; The Dardenne Brothers, whose films closely resemble Loach’s newest in style and content, have won twice, for Rosetta (1999) and The Child (2005), and Laurent Cantet’s The Class (2008) broaches similar ideas as well. Loach himself had already won in 2006 for The Wind that Shakes the Barley, a film that has the same quiet fight-the-establishment feel as I, Daniel Blake.

What should have won: Graduation and Sieranevada. All hail the Romanians! In their new films, both Cristian Mungiu and Cristi Puiu prove that Romanian New Wave cinema is alive and vital. These movies both get at a basic human truth: that everybody has their own desires and motivations, and it is these desires that colour and complicate our relationships with one another. As we try to communicate our own agendas (whether we realise we’re doing it or not), we form alliances and make enemies, even if on a small scale. If the content of their films is beautifully human, so are their styles. Their cameras bob in and out of rooms and swivel quickly to see which character will be the next to take up often overlapping dialogue, just like a person would. I, Daniel Blake was good, but these movies were both real, powerful works of film art.

A nice moment from the ceremony:

The Honorary Palme d’Or went to Jean-Pierre Léaud, the star of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows who was 15 when the film was released. Léaud, who turned 72 a couple weeks ago, played the title role in a new film that was shown at Cannes out of competition: Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV (an outstanding film, one I will talk more about in a forthcoming report on the Cannes lineup).

After a montage of Léaud’s performances in films by Truffaut, Godard, Pasolini and Bertolucci, the audience at the closing ceremony got a sense of how versatile Léaud is as a performer. The montage finished with the legendary freeze-frame close-up at the end of The 400 Blows as Jean Constantin’s lush score for the film twinkled in the background. When Léaud emerged to accept his award, his speech (given in French) included anecdotes about meeting Jean Cocteau at Cannes and the moment when Truffaut first presented him with the script for The 400 Blows. Seeing Léaud as an older yet still incredibly talented man reminded us of what must have been an exciting moment in 1959 when a young Antoine Doinel confronted us with his gaze in that freeze frame. It reminded us of that time in the late '50s and early '60s when cinema was becoming more experimental, more aestheticised, more realistic, more exciting. This kind of cinema, like Léaud, is still alive and well, as proved by many exceptional films screened this year at Cannes.

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