On the heels of the “Un Certain Regard” winners comes the announcement of the Cannes Film Festival main competition prizes, and the winner may be a surprise to some. Blue is the Warmest Color, which was picked up for U.S. distribution during the the festival, took down the Palme d’Or despite some critics’ opinions that it might be too sexually explicit to woo the jury, and in particular this year’s jury president, Steven Spielberg.
Functionally the award for the festival runner-up, the Grand Prix prize went to the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. The Coens won the Palme d’Or in 1991 for Barton Fink, and Inside Llewyn Davis marks the seventh time since then a film of theirs has been nominated for the top prize. They also took home Best Director in both 1996 for Fargo and 2001 for The Man Who Wasn’t There. The Jury prize (functionally third place) went to the Japanese film Like Father, Like Son.
Other winners included Berenice Bejo (nominated for an Oscar in 2012 for her role in The Artist), who took home the Best Actress award for her turn in the French film The Past, and Bruce Dern for his performance in Nebraska (directed by The Descendants helmer Alexander Payne). Spaniard Amad Escalante took home the directing prize for Heli, while director of the incisive Chinese film A Touch of Sin Jia Zhangke won the award for best screenplay and the cinematography prize went to Anthony Chen for Ilo Ilo.
The international flavor of Cannes makes it a bit finicky when predicting winners’ future success, at least in the U.S. Palme d’Or winners the last two years, Amour and The Tree of Life, were both nominated for multiple Oscars, with Amour winning for Best Foreign Language Film last year. While neither was a blockbuster commercial hit (and really, neither was expected to be), both were commercially successful. Past winners have included everything from Pulp Fiction to Fahrenheit 9/11.
This year, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska are both due out in the heart of the U.S. awards season – the former getting a limited release December 6th before expanding wide on the 20th and the latter hitting theaters November 22nd – and it’s hard to imagine a Coen film not doing well in the box office. As we noted before, an end-of-year release for Blue is the Warmest Color would not be surprising either, although its commercial success will likely be limited by the barriers of language, content, and a likely limited release.