The 75th Cannes Film Festival will come to a close on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. local time with a closing ceremony at which prizes will be dished out to several of the 21 films that played in competition. Unlike some years, there are no runaway favorites for any of 2022’s most coveted honors, which are being decided by a jury comprised of Asghar Farhadi, Rebecca Hall, Vincent Lindon (jury president), Ladj Ly, Jeff Nichols, Deepika Padukone, Noomi Rapace, Joachim Trier and Jasmine Trinca. So I thought I would offer a bit of informed speculation about how those might pan out.
PALME D’OR AND GRAND PRIZE
It’s hard to imagine that Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont’s Close, a deeply affecting portrayal of a friendship between two young boys who may be gay, won’t walk away with the fest’s first or second prize for best film. It was certainly the best film I saw at this year’s fest, and A24 was wise to snag its U.S. distribution rights hours before it premiered. Dhont, who is just 30 and would be one of the youngest-ever winners of a top Cannes award, unveiled his one prior feature in Cannes four years ago: Girl, the story of a trans youngster, was recognized with the Caméra d’Or for best first feature and the Queer Palm en route to being selected as the Belgian entry for the best international feature Oscar. I suspect Close will end up representing the country at the Oscars, too.
I’d also keep an eye on the neo-noir Decision to Leave (which MUBI will distribute in the U.S.) from South Korean master Park Chan-wook, who won the Grand Prize in 2004 for Oldboy (after jury president Quentin Tarantino unsuccessfully fought for him to receive the Palme), as well as four titles from past Palme winners.
The Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, my favorite filmmakers, have twice taken home Cannes’ highest honor — for 1999’s Rosetta and 2005’s L’Enfant — and are likely in the mix for Tori and Lokita, which could make them the first filmmakers ever to pull off a Palme hat-trick. (Tori and Lokita is still seeking U.S. distribution, perhaps because it is heartbreakingly bleak.) Their film, like another top prospect, R.M.N. from Cristian Mungiu (IFC), the Romanian auteur who won 15 years ago for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, centers on the plight of refugees who come to their home countries seeking a better life.
Meanwhile, Ruben Ostlund, the Swede who won for 2017’s The Square, is back in contention for another dark comedy, Triangle of Sadness (acquired during the fest by Neon for U.S. distribution), which sends up the rich and those who cater to them or desperately want to join their ranks. It may ultimately prove a bit too long (at 149 minutes) and polarizing to land a top prize.
And Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, a winner for 2018’s Shoplifters, should not be discounted for Broker (also Neon), another project about social outcasts who come together to form an unconventional family, this time in South Korea. It received a fest-best 12-minute standing ovation (matched only by the one accorded to Baz Luhrmann’s out-of-competition Elvis).
It seems unlikely that a film from a North American and/or female filmmaker will make the cut. Canadian David Cronenberg’s return to body-horror Crimes of the Future (Neon) and American James Gray’s autobiographical Armageddon Time (Focus) both proved rather divisive. And of the five female-directed titles in competition, only one went over somewhat well, American Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams’ reunion Showing Up (A24) — although the legendary Frenchwoman Claire Denis, who had a film in competition for only the second time, certainly has many admirers among her peers and cannot be totally ruled out for Stars at Noon (A24).
And how’s this for a wild-card possibility: EO (still seeking U.S. distribution), the story of a donkey in a circus (inspired by Robert Bresson’s 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar), from veteran Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski.
It’s hard to game out Cannes juries, as they spread their prizes around as much as possible. So if, say, Dhont and Park’s films are awarded the best film prizes, then that takes their filmmakers out of the running for best director.
One can try to psychoanalyze this year’s jurors to figure out what/who they would most likely connect with — for instance, one could argue that Farhadi has made films that pose moral questions like Tori and Lokita and others from the Dardennes (who were awarded best director in 2019 for Young Ahmed); Trier’s work tends to be a bit eccentric like Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness; and Nichols has made films about young people coming of age, not unlike Gray’s Armageddon Time. But there is, of course, no guarantee that filmmakers will vote for films that are like their own.
Another consideration: are jurors swayed when filmmakers contextualize their films in remarks inside the Palais after their film’s premiere? If so, R.M.N.’s Mungiu (who won this award for 2016’s Graduation) may have helped his cause with his emotional remarks.
If we were talking about the Oscars, there would be a greater likelihood of the best director prize going to someone as a sort of recognition of career achievement — perhaps Crimes of the Future’s Cronenberg, who has had a half-dozen films at the fest prior to Crimes, but only won something once (Crash took home a jury prize in 1996) and would seem ripe for recognition; or 84-year-old Skolimowski, who has now had eight films at the fest over 50 years with only a special jury prize in 1978 and a best screenplay prize in 1982 to show for it.
But Cannes juries tend not to operate that way, opting instead to reward people in the prime of their career for deeply personal passion projects, which is why I wouldn’t rule out Armageddon Time’s Gray, Triangle of Sadness’ Ostlund or Broker’s Kore-eda.
Cannes juries not infrequently present this award to costars, which is why one cannot rule out the boys from Close, Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele. But if they are off the table because their film has received a higher honor, then perhaps another young performer, Tori and Lokita’s Pablo Schils, has a chance.
However, child actor winners are actually rather rare, which is why there’s probably a better chance of this award going to Mehdi Bajestani, who plays a serial killer in Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider (Utopia); Crimes of the Future’s Viggo Mortensen; Marin Grigore, the imperfect husband and father of R.M.N.; or a favorite of several festivalgoers I spoke with, Fares Fares for his regular collaborator Tarik Saleh’s political thriller Boy from Heaven (still seeking U.S. distribution).
I wouldn’t count out Crimes of the Future star and hometown favorite Lea Seydoux (also great in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight selection One Fine Morning), who is one of only two performers who have won the Palme but who has never won the fest’s best actress prize, which has gone to plenty of other Frenchwomen in recent years.
Romanian actress Judith State, who plays a woman dealing with trouble at work and at home in R.M.N., is certainly a worthy option, as well.
But the smart money seems to be divided between Tori and Lokita’s first-time performer Mbundu Joely; Triangle of Sadness’ “I’m the captain now” scene-stealer Dolly De Leon; and Decision to Leave’s ageless femme fatale Tang Wei.
Contenders who have previously won this prize and could again include EO’s Skolimowski (1982’s Moonlighting), Tori and Lokita’s Dardennes (2008’s Lorna’s Silence) and R.M.N.’s Mungiu (2012’s Beyond the Hills). Armageddon Time’s Gray and Crimes of the Future’s Cronenberg could certainly win for scripts, which are deeply personal in different ways. But this feels like the likeliest place for the jury to recognize the off-the-wall creativity of Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness.
Palme d’Or: Close (Lukas Dhont)
Grand Prize: Tori and Lokita (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne)
Best Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Broker)
Best Actor: Fares Fares (Boy from Heaven)
Best Actress: Tang Wei (Decision to Leave)
Best Screenplay: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Ostlund)
Jury Prize: EO (Jerzy Skolimowski)