The Cannes Film Festival wrapped up its 76th edition earlier this week in the south of France by awarding its top prize, the Palme d’Or, to Justine Triet for her film “Anatomy of a Fall.” The psychological thriller stars the German actress Sandra Hüller who plays a best selling author accused of being involved in the mysterious circumstances surrounding her husband’s death. It marks only the third time a female director has won the Palme, the first being Jane Campion in 1993 for “The Piano” and the second being Julia Ducournau when her film “Titane” won just two years ago.
Seven films out of the 21 that appeared in this year’s official competition were by women directors. This doesn’t include any of the selection in the festival’s sidebars such as Un Certain Regard, which honored Molly Manning Walker’s movie “How To Have Sex” with its top award. That film features three teenage girls who go on a summer-fling holiday to drink, go clubbing and hook up with as many people as possible, which isn’t as much fun as they all had hoped.
Both “Anatomy of a Fall” and “How To Have Sex” were audience favorites at this year’s festival along with another film starring Hüller, “The Zone of Interest,” from British director Jonathan Glazer. Loosely based on a Martin Amis novel the movie is set during World War II and revolves around the Nazi commandant in charge of Auschwitz. Rather than go inside the infamous concentration camp the film portrays a blissful home life with his wife and children as they live next door, literally, to the horrors taking place offscreen. Meanwhile, Glazer’s main character becomes caught up in office politics and the quotidian tasks that give new meaning to the phrase banality of evil.
While I will predict now that “The Zone of Interest” will be nominated for an Academy Award, perhaps even Best Picture, the bigger unknown is whether anyone will ever see the film in a movie theatre. To be sure, the German language film will be released by A24 in the United States and it has sold the movie to a number of international territories. However the question over what the commercial prospects are for smaller dramatic titles in the current global market is one that hung over this year’s Cannes Film Festival and its associated market, the Marché du Film.
The uncertain future for smaller more dramatic fare didn’t keep buyers away from the Marché, with organizers reporting record attendance topping pre-COVID registration figures. Buyers gobbled up films like “Anatomy of a Fall,” which was picked up by Neon for distribution in the U.S. and Picturehouse Entertainment for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Actually, Picturehouse was quite busy in Cannes this year, acquiring three additional hot competition titles; Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Monster,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “About Dry Grasses” and Tran Anh Hung’s “The Pot-Au-Feu.”
“Pot-Au-Feu” was justifiably described positively as “food porn” by some film critics, most of whom wrote glowing reviews. The French film, a period piece about a master chef and his cook, was strong enough to win Hung the festival’s prize for best director. In an ideal world, it is the kind of film that could help bring older audiences into cinemas, even if they have to read subtitles.
In fact, if there is one theory that the Cannes Film Festival helped debunk over the past five years, it is that audiences won’t show up at movie theatres for a film with subtitles. In 2019, the South Korean movie “Parasite” won the Palme d’Or at the festival before going on to win the Oscar for Best Picture on its way to over USD $250 million in global box office. So perhaps the many noteworthy titles at selected for Cannes this year, and there were many I’ve not mentioned, will find their audiences when they make their way into cinemas around the world.
Unfortunately, Todd Haynes latest effort, “May December” might only get a limited theatrical release in North America since Netflix acquired the film for a reported USD $11 million. The film stars Julianne Moore as an older woman married to a young man she originally seduced when he was 13. Natalie Portman plays an actress doing research for a movie about the illicit affair. If one needed an indication about the appetite of streaming services for smaller films, Netflix’s deal for “May December” during Cannes is surely representative that the acquisition frenzy of previous years has cooled. Whereas once the company would have purchased worldwide rights, it is now being more cautious by limiting its exposure to North America.
Of course, auteur films aren’t the only titles Cannes selects to premiere at the Palais des Festivals. Most moviegoers around the world undoubtedly saw the headlines generated by the handful of Hollywood studio titles the festival often programs to bring some star power to the Croisette. This year “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” starring Harrison Ford and Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of “Killers of the Flower Moon” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, both bowed at the festival to standing ovations of various lengths.
Though perhaps audiences were simply relieved to be standing at all given the average running time of films at this year’s festival was well over two hours with at least four being over three hours long.
Optimized coverage for small-to-medium-sized auditoriums
Dolby’s new System 126 screen speaker not only features a patented asymmetrical waveguide delivering exceptional audio coverage, but also offers both bi-amplified or passive, single-amp-channel operation.
Celluloid Junkie is the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business. The Marquee is our newsletter focused on motion picture exhibition; keeping industry professionals informed of important news, the latest trends and insightful analysis