The Cannes Film Festival is returning next week after a year's hiatus due to the pandemic, so to get in the mood, we've picked a selection of winners from the past 70 years for our Streaming Spotlight this week to get you in the mood. It is worth noting that, as with many prizes across the globe, gender inequality remains evident, with Jane Campion still the only woman to have won the coveted Palme d'Or, although women have made inroads with other gongs at the fest. Andrea Arnold has won the Jury Prize three times, for Red Road, Fish Tank and American Honey, while Maïwenn took home the same award for Polisse. Female winners of the festival Grand Prix include Mati Diop (Atlantics) and Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest). We'll be bringing you features and reviews throughout this year's festival, which runs from July 6 to 17.
Jennie Kermode writes: Following the exploits of the scheming Kim family as they inveigle themselves into the lives of the wealthy Parks through various acts of deception, Bong Joon-ho's witty social satire is far more astute than it might seem at first glance. Though it plays out as a farce - often hilariously - it's anything but superficial, teasing out the complexities of South Korea's class system while asking viewers to reflect on the construction of morality and how much easier it is to be nice if one never has to struggle. A sharp analysis of privilege acknowledges that the Parks are, to an extent, innocents, simply benefitting from a system which they understand even less, and Bong carefully balances our sympathies en route to a spectacular final act. While his arguments might not be new, they're assembled in a way that is both elegant and succinct, and they never distract from the human side of the story or its increasingly dark humour. As a director, he shifts registers with ease to reflect traditional Korean techniques used in depicting poverty whilst making the Parks' world look like a series of glossy high-end advertisements. The film is a superb example of craft applied for a purpose.
Michael Haneke's austere black and white study of the tensions in a small town on the eve of the First World War drips with unspoken fears and repression as he explores what would become the breeding ground for Nazism. The town finds itself falling victim to a series of vicious crimes but these random acts stand in sharp relief against the homegrown everyday horrors that are being tolerated behind closed doors. For all the townsfolk's professed puritanism, they tacitly endorse domestic crime so long as the social order is maintained. Exquisitely framed and shot by one of Haneke's regular cinematographic collaborators Christian Berger, extreme care is given to what is hidden from us and what is forced into our view. This is the cinema of discomfort at its finest.
The Piano, Apple TV, Amazon, Curzon - winner in 1993
Jennie Kermode writes: The story of mute Scotswoman Ada (Holly Hunter), who is dispatched, along with her daughter (Anna Paquin), to the other side of the world as a mail-order bride, Jane Campion's assured and visually stunning drama made her the first woman to win the Palme D'Or and only the second to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar, while Paquin became the youngest ever winner of a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Robbed of her voice when her inconvenient instrument is sold to plantation owner George (Harvey Keitel), Ada seems to speak for thousands of women whose stories have been erased by history. She suffers constant verbal abuse and rejection by her new husband, but there's a formidable, resilient quality about her, and when she makes a deal with George, allowing her to gradually recover the piano, what begins as something ugly and exploitative unexpectedly blooms into romance. The female-centred erotic narrative shocked cinemagoers back in 1993 and made a significant contribution to the eventual shift in how women's experiences are represented onscreen. An uncharacteristically melodic score by Michael Nyman seals this film's classic status.
German director Wim Wenders might have been an 'outsider' to the US but here he presents one of the most resonant depictions of American spaces, something he had already shown a keen eye for a decade earlier with Alice In The Cities, all lensed with fluid grace and long takes by Robby Muller. The late-great Harry Dean Stanton plays Travis Henderson, a missing-presumed-dead amnesiac, who wanders out of the desert four years after his disappearance and who gradually begins to reconnect with his family and, particularly his son (Hunter Carson). Wenders film is big on mood and emotion as he explores Henderson's odyssey through the shards of the American Dream. Tom Farrell told us about his experience in one of the film's key scenes.
Taxi Driver, Chili, Apple TV, Amazon, Now TV - winner in 1976
De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver
Martin Scorsese has always known how to get the best out of Robert De Niro and it may come as a surprise to learn he lost out on the Academy Award for this bleak slice of New York life to Peter Finch for Network. His performance here slides from charming to visceral and dangerous in a moment, as his cabbie Travis Bickle, irreparably damaged by military service and unable to sleep, cruises the seedier side of the city as his anger and paranoia mount along with an obsession for child prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster, bringing remarkable depth to her role given that she was just 13 at the time). Screenwriter Paul Schrader achieves the uncanny knack of making us feel for Bickle in his nihilism, while the whole film is added extra depth by Bernard Herrman's blues-inflected score. As disturbing now as the day it was shot - it's interesting to note that its Cannes win was not universally welcomed at the prize giving press conference, where it was booed by some in the room.
The Leopard, Microsoft, Amazon, GooglePlay - winner in 1963
Luchino Visconti's sumptuously shot costume drama considers the waning days of the aristocracy in Sicily as observed through the eyes of prince Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster) as Garibaldi's troops arrive on the island. From the lavish costumes, which take centre stage in a late, lengthy ballroom scene, to intricate detailing, this is an immersive and melancholic experience as the great and the good struggle to cope with the changing times that are upon them. In a rather nice nod from one Cannes winner to another, the film was beautifully restored by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation so that it can now be seen at its original best.
We're returning to American for our short selection this week - Jim Jarmusch's Coffee & Cigarettes: Somewhere In California, featuring Iggy Pop and Tom Waits. It took home the short film Palme d'Or in 1993 and 10 years later it would go on to be folded into Jarmusch's feature-length version.