Art trumps commerce in 2014 Cannes Film Festival winners

While film festivals such as Sundance and Toronto attract big crowds and even bigger premieres of movies by the world’s most talented filmmakers, neither carry the prestige or the history of the Cannes Film Festival. Located in the south of France, Cannes has served as the prominent venue for the unveiling of top-tier cinema from all over the world. The 2014 festival, which wrapped up on Sunday, proved to be no exception.

The top prize, the Palme d’Or, was awarded to the Turkish drama “Winter Sleep,” directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. In recent years, this award has been given to films that went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, including 2011′s “The Tree of Life” and 2012′s “Amour.” The film, which festival jury chair Jane Campion described as “masterful” and “ruthless,” carries a three-hour runtime that may discourage audiences stateside.

The Palme d’Or win for “Winter Sleep” came as a surprise to many journalists covering the festival, who had been predicting that the award would go to either Xavier Dolan’s coming-of-age story “Mommy” or Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Russian melodrama “Leviathan.”

 However, neither film came away emptyhanded. The festival’s Jury Prize was awarded to both “Mommy” as well as legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s experimental “Goodbye to Language.” Godard, whose career has spanned over six decades, did not attend to accept the award he now shares with the 25-year-old Dolan, whose acceptance speech gained significant attention online.

“I’m still young —- but a word for my generation. Some people will dislike what you do, some will dislike who you are. But let’s hold onto our dreams because together we can change the world and changing the world takes time,” Dolan expressed through tears.

Filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” was awarded the honor of best screenplay alongside co-writer Oleg Negin. This prize came as a consolation to the film, which had many journalists immediately declare it the winner of the festival after it premiered.

Although honors for those films appeared to be pre-ordained, the Grand Prix prize, which essentially serves as an award for second place, was given to Alice Rohrwacher’s Italian family drama “The Wonders,” which has been praised for delicately balancing somewhat bitter subject matter with delicate sweetness.

While Cannes is arguably the least favorable to English-language films of all the major festivals, North American and British cinema did thrive this year. Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”) was awarded with the best director prize for early Oscar favorite “Foxcatcher,” starring Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum.

The top acting prizes also went to easily recognizable names. Julianne Moore was awarded the best actress award for her role in David Cronenberg’s Hollywood satire “Maps to the Stars,” while Timothy Spall won the award for best actor in biopic “Mr. Turner.”

The Camera d’Or, recognizing the best first feature, went to Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, and Samuel Theis for their collaboration “Party Girl.”

Notably snubbed from distinction from the jury, which also included many other big names such as actor Willem Dafoe and director Sofia Coppola, was the critically beloved “Two Days, One Night” from Cannes mainstays Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. The film’s star, Marion Cotillard, was expected to be recognized for her role in the film, while the co-directors have seen their last five films win awards at the festival.

 

Reach the reporter at zheltzel@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @zachheltzel