As The Square comes to India, a look at recent Palme d’Or winners — from Amour to Dheepan
As we look ahead to the release of The Square on Friday, let's reflect on some of the other Palme d’Or winners in recent years.
Swedish satire The Square, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival last year, finally hits theatres in India on Friday. Ruben Östlund's film is not only a savagely funny takedown of the limits of free speech and the blurred lines between the sexes but also a wonderful spoof of political correctness and the confused identity of the modern male. As a museum’s handsome and successful but flawed curator searches for his stolen mobile phone, the story goes off into wild directions switching between surrealism, comedy of manners, thriller and social commentary.
Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who headed the Cannes jury of nine people that included Hollywood stars Will Smith and Jessica Chastain, said the film was about “the dictatorship of being politically correct” before adding, “Such a serious subject is treated with an incredible imagination. It is very, very, very funny.” Starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West and Terry Notary, The Square beat the hotly tipped French drama BPM (120 Beats Per Minute) about the radical activists who helped shame the world into action on AIDS.
Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes film festival, can not only boost a film’s box office performance but also raise its profile ahead of the award season that culminates in the Academy Awards.
As we look ahead to the release of Östlund's hilarious satire The Square, let's reflect on some of the other Palme d’Or winners in recent years.
2016 - I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)
British veteran director Ken Loach, who had previously won in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes the Barley, took home his second Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for his socio-realist drama, I, Daniel Blake. The film shows how Britain’s social security system conspires to drive a downtrodden carpenter and a single mother of two into poverty in the northeastern city of Newcastle. Stand-up comedian Dave Johns plays joiner Daniel who is denied disability benefits when unable to work through illness. He befriends young mother Katie, played by Hayley Squires, as they battle with the welfare system. Loach remains just as passionate about social injustice as when his TV play Cathy Come Home shocked viewers 50 years ago with its depiction of a slide into homelessness.
2015 - Dheepan (Jacques Audiard)
Jacques Audiard, who had been in the running for a Cannes award for a long time with such films like Read My Lips (2001), The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005), A Prophet (2009) and Rust and Bone (2012), finally won the Palme d’Or for Dheepan in 2015. The film tells the story of Tamil refugees trying to make a new life on a violent and drug-infested French housing estate. Novelist and former child soldier Antonythasan Jesuthasan plays an ex-Tamil Tiger fighter escaping Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war. He and two strangers – a woman and a nine-year-old girl – pretend to be a family to make it to France on fake passports. Once they arrive in a rough housing estate on the outskirts of Paris, the makeshift family begins to bond and Dheepan must use his battlefield experience to keep the three of them safe from drug gangs waging a turf war.
Antonythasan himself fought for the Tamil Tigers from the age of 16 before making it in 1993 on a fake passport to France, where he was granted political asylum. As countries around the world grappled with an influx of people fleeing global crises, a jury led by Hollywood filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen were clearly sending a political message by choosing the gritty picture from among 19 international contenders.
2014 - Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Winter Sleep examines the huge divide between rich and poor and the powerful and powerless in Turkey. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s three-hour-plus dark and atmospheric film was only the second Turkish movie to win the top award at Cannes, and it came on the 100th anniversary year of Turkish film. The film stars Haluk Bilginer as Aydin, a wealthy retired actor living with his much younger wife (Melisa Sozen) and his recently divorced sister (Demet Akbag). Based on short stories by Anton Chekhov, their tense triangle plays out in a quaint hotel serving hikers and motocross enthusiasts in the rugged region. Aydin, the husband, acts like the benevolent monarch of his remote community, dispensing charity and, when he sees fit, harsh discipline to the villagers. He sees himself, however, as a champion of enlightened reason in conservative Muslim Anatolia, and a guardian of Turkey's rich cultural tradition. Their intricately pitched, often remarkably lengthy dialogues, written by Ceylan and his wife Ebru, dig deep and drew comparisons to Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, a master of moral questioning and the personal drama writ large.
Despite its setting in the vast Anatolian steppe, Winter Sleep’s atmosphere is almost claustrophobic as it shows Aydin who uses his intellect and position to bully his tenants and beat his wife and sister into intellectual submission. Critics had applauded Winter Sleep as one of the standout films in a 2014 festival that was somewhat short on fireworks. The only other Turkish film to win the Palme d'Or was Yilmaz Guney and Serif Goren’s The Way (1982).
2013 - Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche)
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adele) is an emotional tale of love and sexuality centred on 15-year-old Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) and her lover Emma (Lea Seydoux) that follows the course of their tumultuous relationship. As it traces Adele's infatuation with the beautiful blue-haired art student Emma, it also explores themes such as class in France and women's careers. Critics in 2013 picked the three-hour-long intimate lesbian love story by French director Abdellatif Kechiche in what was a bold move after many wondered if its explicit lesbian sex scenes — one lasting up to 10 minutes — would deter the jury deciding the awards led by Steven Spielberg. In another unusual move, Spielberg said the award would be shared between Kechiche and his two lead actresses Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux as they were central to the film’s success.
2012 - Amour (Michael Haneke)
With Amour's victory in 2012, Michael Haneke had joined an elite group of two-time winners of the coveted Palme d’Or after his The White Ribbon won in 2009. Amour is an elegiac tale of an elderly couple facing the inescapable, yet no less tragic march of death. Haneke’s moving film set inside a Paris apartment and following a man caring for his ailing wife reduced audiences to tears. Its two main stars, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, both in their 80s captured all the emotional complexities of old-age perfectly. The award underlined the 70-year-old Haneke’s reputation as one of the greatest European directors working today. Amour also marked a shift away from Haneke’s preoccupation with violence after The White Ribbon and 2005’s Hidden.
With inputs from agencies
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