The Cannes film festival concludes tonight with the closing ceremony, followed by the world premiere of Jerome Salle's Zulu. What will the official jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, choose for this year's Palme d'Or? And what about the contenders in the other six categories? I'm going to run through the categories and the contenders, and include clips from the films in competition.
It depends on whom you ask, but it would seem, currently, that eight out of the twenty films in competition stand a chance of winning the festival's top award. Above, a clip from Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Abdellatif Kechiche's critically-lauded FIPRESCI prize winner, which has been the festival standout for many. By no means does it have this race down though, as several other films pose strong threats. Currently sitting pretty on a Metascore of 100, the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis was maybe the first film in competition this year to draw raves across the board from critics, although Asghar Farhadi's The Past preceded it with some very positive responses last week. Like Father, Like Son is being touted despite a few tepid reviews, The Great Beauty has proved impressive with many, and The Netherlands' first film in official competition for almost 40 years, Borgman, was a surprise hit. A win for Behind the Candelabra would mark a symmetrical end to Steven Soderbergh's film career, as his debut film Sex, Lies and Videotape won Cannes' top award 24 years ago. A late-game contender is James Gray's The Immigrant, which may not have united audiences but has certainly drawn some strong praise and serious consideration.
GRAND PRIX AND JURY PRIZE
These awards are, basically, second and third place citations. Often, the jury chooses to award films in these categories which haven't been awarded elsewhere. Lighter offerings, such as last year's Reality and The Angels' Share, might appear here, so perhaps look out for films like A Castle in Italy, Nebraska and Venus in Fur.
Another award which is considered by some as a runner-up award, the Best Director prize is a popular one with more divisive films. This is, ofc, France, where they do love their auteurs, so whereas a jury may be reluctant to give the Palme to a more polarising film, respect for a director's strong sense of directorial vision can result in a win in this category. Tougher films such as Jia Zhang Ke's A Touch of Sin or Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives might triumph here. Also watch out for Amat Escalante's Heli or Arnaud des Pallieres' Michael Kohlhaas, despite their negative critical reaction. Palme contenders which don't win one of the top award such as Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche) or The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino) could take home this award instead. A note: Joel Coen has won more Best Director prizes at Cannes than any other in history with three (for Barton Fink, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There). He could nab a fourth for Inside Llewyn Davis, along with brother Ethan.
A heated race for Best Actress at Cannes this year. The first legitimate competitor was former Oscar-nominee Berenice Bejo for The Past. The whole cast of that film was praised by many who saw the film, but Bejo was singled out in particular. She replaced Marion Cotillard in the part, but no bother, as Cotillard is another likely winner, for her performance in The Immigrant, which has already seen her touted as a potential Oscar frontrunner later this year. Kristin Scott Thomas was considered one of the best things about Only God Forgives (which, for some, isn't saying much), while Emmanuelle Seigner impressed critics in Venus in Fur. But perhaps the most formidable competition in this category is Blue Is the Warmest Colour's leading couple, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, who will be tough to beat. But this is the opinion of a jury of just nine, don't forget, so it's anyone's game.
There have been plenty of (reportedly) good male performances in competition this year, although few have received the kind of attention which the best female performances have attracted. Nevertheless, the jury has a smart selection to choose from. Cannes favourite Mathieu Amalric stars in two films this year, Venus in Fur and Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian), and could be among tonight's winners, especially if the jury recognises the popular work of his Jimmy P. co-star Benicio del Toro. Inside Llewyn Davis is supposedly crammed with good perfs, but lead Oscar Isaac possibly stands the best chance of the lot. Mads Mikkelsen could do a Barbara Hershey and win two years in a row, for Michael Kohlhaas after last year's deserved win for The Hunt. Toni Servillo is a frontrunner for The Great Beauty, and Joaquin Phoenix's turn in The Immigrant has generated plenty more good reactions than bad, which puts him firmly in contention. Also look out for Grigris' Souleymane Deme. Finally, a safe bet would be Michael Douglas for Behind the Candelabra, work which has been hailed as among the best of his career.
This one's a hard one to call. Run through a list of previous winners in this category and you might be confronted with a list full of unfamiliar titles. Perhaps some of the lesser-known films in competition this year might succeed here in that case, like Young & Beautiful or Grigis, or perhaps the jury will follow the critics' lead and choose one of the favourites, like The Past, Inside Llewyn Davis or Blue Is the Warmest Colour.
Let's not forget about some titles not discussed above: Jim Jarmusch's vampire comedy Only Lovers Left Alive, which screened to good reviews a couple of days ago and could be in line for success tonight, and Takashi Miike's Shield of Straw, which is possibly the least likely film to triumph, if the critics are to be believed.