The weather was fine throughout, the security as tight as expected, the films were okay but not much more than that, and there were a record number of women directors and actors among the prize-winners. Thus the 70th Cannes Festival ended without too much controversy about screening versus streaming or Netflix and Amazon versus the rest. Everyone had their own views about this, including jury members, led by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who thought films were made for the cinema not for computers or iPhones.
The winner of the coveted Palme D'Or was from Sweden, and the sort of movie whose originality struck the jury as exceptional. Rubén Ostlund's The Square has a very middle-class museum boss tangling not very successfully with the working classes who never go near his exhibitions. Trying to save a man from a robbery, he is himself robbed blind and, like any good liberal, tries to persuade the thieves to reform. It is partly a satire and partly a comedy-drama which the jury found exceptionally apt for today.
The awards to women were headed by a special Anniversary Prize for Nicole Kidman, who appeared in two films in competition and two outside as well. But the chief glory belonged to Diane Kruger, who won best actress for her performance in Fatih Akin's In The Fade. It was her first starring role in her own German language, as a woman who loses both her husband and son after a terrorist outrage. Another triumph for femininity was Sophia Coppola's Best Director award for The Beguiled, an adaptation of the old Don Siegel movie of the fifties which had Clint Eastwood as a Union soldier who arrives at a female college in the Deep South to hide from the Confederate Army. No Eastwood this time, and it's the women who are the leading characters. They include Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst. Colin Farrell takes the Eastwood part.
The one British entrant, Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here, was deliberately shown on the last day at the director's request. Editing problems were the reason but since Joaquín Phoenix won the Best Actor gong and Ramsay won a share of the best Screenplay prize, it didn't count against her that most of the critical fraternity had gone home. It is an excellent film, part thriller, part psychological drama in which a rough and ready hitman is engaged to save the daughter of a well-known attorney.
Finally, the Grand Prix du Cannes, the official second prize, was won by Robin Campillo's BPM--Beats per Minute, a well-acted and moving account set during the early years of the AIDS epidemic when a group of gay men and women mounted a successful campaign to force a major company to increase their research money for a cure.
The minor jury prize was given to Loveless, Andrei Zvyagintsev's brilliant successor to Leviathan, which is equally critical of the state of Russia today as a couple who are about to be divorced allow their 12-year-old son little hope of comfort. So he disappears and father and mother finally begin to learn the meaning of love. Many thought the film should have been given a bigger prize. But on the whole, the jury did a decent job spreading their accolades far and wide geographically and giving good reasons for their decisions. It has not always been like that in recent years.