Between Cate Blanchett being appointed to head the largely female jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the much-publicized march of 82 women down the red carpet at the start of the festival (representing the mere 82 women directors in 71 years who’ve competed for the Palme d’Or), many have come to predict that one of the three female filmmakers in competition this year would take the top prize. This article won’t diverge from that prediction, and of the three possibilities, Alice Rohwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro still seems like the safest bet, even with reports coming in that Blanchett teared up at the world premiere of Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum.
Hopefully the arguments against Capernaum from the more discerning jury members will be strong enough to keep Labaki’s film from taking the Palme d’Or, especially with Rohwacher—whose film most everyone seems to like a great deal—as a readily viable alternative. Still, it seems reasonable to expect that Labaki will get something, perhaps the Grand Prix. Regardless, even with one of these filmmakers taking either of the festival’s top two prizes, it seems as if a very clear message will be sent to the festival about how it should go about programming its competition slate in the years to come.
Elsewhere, early festival buzz suggested that Zhao Tao could be the favorite to win Best Actress. She’s been wonderful in numerous films directed by her husband, Jia Zhang-ke, and she gives arguably her greatest performance to date in Jia’s Ash Is Purest White. But very recently, predictions have started to shift to the star of Sergei Dvortsevoy’s Ayka, Samal Yeslyamova, who gives a harrowing and emotionally intense turn as a woman braving a miserable Moscow blizzard and simultaneously dealing with her poor health.
For Best Actor, it would be nice to see the award go to Andrew Garfield in Under the Silver Lake, as his manic energy and stoned confusion is in more rhythmic lockstep with the irreverent shaddy-dog narrative of the film than David Robert Mitchell’s direction. But the film doesn’t seem to have been well-liked at the festival, and while Matteo Garrone’s Dogman wasn’t exactly a cause célèbre either, its central performance, by Marcello Fonte, offers a palatable showcase for put-upon schmuck earnestness.
Another real possibility—and a deeply deserving one—for Best Actor is Yoo Ah-in, the quietly intense lead in South Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning. The problem with the film is that it’s by some distance the critical consensus favorite at this festival, which in recent years has proven to be a liability on awards night. That said, since Lee’s film is impeccably written, and since it’s an adaptation of renowned author Haruki Murakami, the critical love it’s getting may not preclude it from a modest screenplay award.
That leaves Best Director and the Jury Prize, and at least one more film that would seem to need to be rewarded somewhere: Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, which some will probably predict for the Palme d’Or, since another narrative that’s circulated during the festival—one brought up by Lee himself—has been that Do the Right Thing was robbed of the Palme d’Or back in 1989. But it’s about as difficult to imagine the international jury all swooning for the distinctly American BlacKkKlansman enough to make it their top choice as it is to imagine jury member Ava DuVernay not swooning for it. As such, and in a year where the Cannes jury seems primed to politicize its awards, giving Lee the directing award would be a good way to further that mission.
For the third-place Jury Prize, how about some less interesting and more reliable logic: Rumor has it that Pawel Pawlikowski is among those who’ve been “called back” (Cannes lingo for someone being told to stay behind after closing night because he or she might win something). Since Pawlikowski’s Cold War was one of the more widely liked, but rarely loved, films that screened in competition, giving it the Jury Prize makes sense.
Will Win: Happy as Lazzaro
Should Win: Ash Is Purest White
Will Win: Capernaum
Should Win: Asako I & II
Will Win: Cold War
Should Win: Burning
Will Win: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Should Win: Jafar Panahi, 3 Faces
Will Win: Burning
Should Win: Burning
Will Win: Marcello Fonte, Dogman
Should Win: Yoo Ah-in, Burning
Will Win: Samal Esljamova, Ayka
Should Win: Zhao Tao, Ash Is Purest White