The 2015 Cannes Film Festival is now in the history books and French filmmaker Jacques Audiard was the big winner, as his latest film Dheepan was crowned with the Palme d’Or, the fest’s top prize. The prestigious film festival—this year marking its 68th anniversary—is one of the major cinematic highlights of the year, a celebration of international auteur filmmaking as well as the unofficial start of the awards season. This year, a few films being packaged as potential awards contenders made their premieres, including Todd Haynes’ Carol (starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) and Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth (starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard). Cannes also tends to be a significant launching pad for movies that might show up on the Oscars’ foreign film selection later in the year. The jury this year was co-led by filmmaking siblings Joel and Ethan Coen (Cannes mainstays in their own right).
Dheepan, a crime drama, centers around a Sri Lankan immigrant (newcomer Jesuthasan Antonythasan) who moves to France and takes on a job as a caretaker. The film marks the first time Audiard has won the top prize at Cannes, though he has been a mainstay at the festival, winning the Grand Prix (essentially second place) for his Oscar-nominated 2009 film A Prophet and the Screenplay Prize for the 1996 film A Self-Made Hero. Audiard’s last film was the 2012 melodrama Rust and Bone starring Marion Cotillard, which also had an in-competition slot at Cannes. Dheepan was picked up by IFC Films/Sundance Selects. While no release date has been confirmed for the U.S., the film will be released in its native France later this summer, qualifying it for Oscar eligibility in the foreign film category.
Another big winner was Son of Saul from debut filmmaker Laszlo Nemes. The Hungarian film—a critically admired Holocaust drama—won the Grand Prix and will potentially establish a new name in the international filmmaking community. Son of Saul was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics shortly after the film made a seemingly stealth (but nonetheless successful) debut. The Lobster, a dystopian dark comedy from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (who previously made the 2010 Oscar-nominated oddity Dogtooth) picked up the Jury Prize (essentially third place or honorable mention). The film marks Lanthimos’ English-language debut and stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, and Lea Seydoux. Alchemy picked up the film shortly after its well-received premiere.
The lone American to come home with a prize this year was Rooney Mara, who tied for Best Actress for her work in Haynes’ critically acclaimed Carol. Mara, who earned an Oscar nomination for David Fincher’s 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, portrays a department store clerk who starts a romantic relationship with an unhappily married woman (Cate Blanchett) in early 1950s New York. The Weinstein Company will release Carol at the end of the year. Mara tied with French actress Emmanuelle Bercot for her performance in the film Mon roi. Bercot pulled double duty at Cannes this year as she also directed the opening night feature film Standing Stall.
Some of the buzzy films in the competition slate that walked away without prizes included Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth (starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, and Jane Fonda), Kurzel’s Macbeth (which was the last competition title to premiere), Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (starring Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro), Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Isabelle Huppert) and Gus van Sant’s critically derided The Sea of Trees (starring Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe). However, all of those titles have been picked up for U.S. distribution. Here’s a list of the feature film winners of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival:
- PALME d’OR: Dheepan (France) – directed by Jacques Audiard
- GRAND PRIX: Son of Saul (Hungary) – directed by Laszlo Nemes
- DIRECTOR: Hou Hsiao-hsien, The Assassin (Taiwan)
- JURY PRIZE: The Lobster (Greece-Ireland-UK-Netherlands-France) – directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
- ACTOR: Vincent Lindon, The Measure of a Man (France)
- ACTRESS: (tie) Emmanuelle Bercot, Mon roi (France); Rooney Mara, Carol (UK-US)
- SCREENPLAY: Chronic (Mexico-France) – Michel Franco
- HONORARY PALME d’OR: Agnès Varda
Last year, the Palme d’Or was given to the Turkish film Winter Sleep from director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. While Winter Sleep was selected as Turkey’s Oscar submission last year, it wasn’t nominated in the foreign language film category. The 2014 winner of the Director’s Prize, Bennett Miller, had better luck, as he received an Oscar nomination for Best Director for his film Foxcatcher, the first time a director achieved such an honor without a corresponding Best Picture nomination to go along with it since the Academy expanded the line-up in 2009. Acting winners at last year’s Cannes Film Festival were Timothy Spall for his acclaimed work in Mr. Turner and Julianne Moore for her bent turn as a narcissistic actress in Maps to the Stars. Spall, despite earning a New York Film Critics bid, faltered in gaining further awards heat; Moore, of course, won the Academy Award this past year, albeit for a different film (Still Alice). The Russian film Leviathan, an Oscar nominee for foreign language film and a Golden Globe Award winner for the same category, was honored by the Cannes jury last year for its screenplay. All in all, it was a fairly deep field. Time will tell if the class of 2015 can match it.