Who will win at Cannes tomorrow… and who should

Posted by · 6:19 pm · May 26th, 2012

Right, we’re almost there. All 22 Competition films have been screened, the crowds are starting to thin out and France’s rosé reserves are in urgent need of refilling. In less than 24 hours, the 65th Cannes Film Festival will be but a beautiful/punishing/hazy memory, but before we can get to the post-mortems and dissections of what standard of fest it was — my snap verdict: not as good as last year, but contrary to what some doom-sayers will tell you, attending Cannes still beats coal-mining — there’s the small matter of the awards to get through. I say it every year: predicting the jury’s choices is an entirely foolhardy business. Something else I do every year? Predict the jury’s choices.

Are we headed for a repeat of 2009’s Cannes ceremony, where Jacques Audiard and Michael Haneke fought it out for the top prizes? The relative thinness of this year’s Competition suggests that might be the case, with most pundits favoring the happy-go-lucky Austrian to come out on top once more. After the jump, check out my best guesses for which way Nanni Moretti’s posse will lean tomorrow, as well as which films and individuals would get my vote. 

(EDIT: Thanks to Nick Davis for valuable information about the history of the Technical Grand Prize, now called the Vulcain Prize, at the festival. This paragraph has been rewritten accordingly.) The jury doesn’t award a technical prize, but an alternative jury is in charge of the technically-focused Vulcain Prize. Hopefully, this is the place to reward cinematographer Oleg Mutu’s staggering work on two Competition titles, “In the Fog” and “Beyond the Hills.” Moving on to official jury business… 

Best Screenplay

Less often a reward for actual screenwriting prowess than simply the festival’s smallest consolation prize, this tends to go to a film that has only mustered a portion of the jury’s keen support — so it could go to any one of the lineup’s qualified successes or near-misses, as long as it’s reasonably wordy. Rewarding “On the Road” simply for the sheer gumption of finally getting Jack Kerouac’s supposedly unfilmable novel on the screen at all is quite possible, but I’m putting my money on Abbas Kiarostami’s arch, highly conceptual script to “Like Someone in Love,” an inferior companion piece to “Certified Copy.” The film hasn’t set the Croisette alight, but it’s well known that Nanni Moretti is a Kiarostami devotee, so he may push to give the man something. 

Will win: Abbas Kiarostami, “Like Someone in Love”

Could win: “Beyond the Hills,” “The Hunt,” “On the Road”

Should win: Michael Haneke, “Amour”

Prix du Jury 

Officially, this amounts to the bronze medal of the festival, though it’s debatable whether it carries more weight than the Best Director prize, which tends to go to more illustrious names. The Jury Prize, by contrast, is often the likeliest place for newer talents (recently, the likes of Andrea Arnold, Maiwenn and Samira Makhmalbaf) to receive recognition. With that in mind, following the warm reception for “Mud” this morning, I’m betting on the Competition’s youngest director, 33-year-old Jeff Nichols, to triumph here, representing for the five US films in the lineup.

Will win: “Mud,” Jeff Nichols

Could win: “Beyond the Hills,” “The Hunt,” “In the Fog”

Should win: “Paradise: Love,” Ulrich Seidl

Best Director

Flashy direction often impresses the jury when it comes to this award — recent winners include “Drive” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” — but so, often, do names they’ve already rewarded. Jacques Audiard, who checks both boxes, makes the most sense, but since I’m betting on him higher up the list, I’m going to bet on former Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu’s highly poised, methodical direction of moral drama “Beyond the Hills” — work that recycles many of the techniques that dazzled on “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” albeit to lesser effect. Word on the grapevine is that several jury members are highly enamored of Mungiu’s film, so I expect it to take something — this award makes as much sense as any.  

Will win: Cristian Mungiu, “Beyond the Hills”

Could win: Leos Carax, “Holy Motors”; Sergei Loznitsa, “In the Fog”; Jacques Audiard, “Rust and Bone”

Should win: Jacques Audiard, “Rust and Bone”

Grand Prix du Jury

The official runner-up award, this is often where the pre-ceremony favorite for the Palme winds up being recognized while the jury leans in a less expected direction. Jacques Audiard took the Grand Prix with his last film, “A Prophet,” in 2009, so it would be unusual (if hardly impossible) for the jury to keep him perched on exactly the same level three years later. The smart money is on one of the festival’s two most prominent critical darlings, “Amour” and “Holy Motors,” duking it out for the top two awards, but Sergei Loznitsa has been coming on strong since the late screening of his stately WWII drama “In the Fog” — which is admired by many (and just took the Competition FIPRESCI Prize), but might be seen as too austere for the Palme. 

Will win: “In the Fog,” Sergei Loznitsa

Could win: “Amour”; “Beyond the Hills”; “Holy Motors”

Should win: “Amour,” Michael Haneke

Best Actor

Not the strongest field this year, this was an award many had already ceded to veteran Frenchman (and former Cannes winner) Jean-Louis Trintignant for his finely shaded work in Michael Haneke’s two-hander — until his compatriot Denis Lavant burst in out of left field, wowing everyone with his furious inhabitation of 11 different personages in Leos Carax’s surreal provocation “Holy Motors.” This now feels like the safest bet of the night to me, particularly if the film itself is too eccentric to win the jury’s favor in the top categories. I’ve scarcely spoken to anyone who doesn’t want to see this happen.

Will win: Denis Lavant, “Holy Motors”

Could win: Mad Mikkelsen, “The Hunt; Matthias Schoenaerts, “Rust and Bone”; Jean-Louis Trintignant, “Amour”

Should win: Denis Lavant, “Holy Motors”

Best Actress

Trintignant’s chances are also affected by those of his co-star, fellow New Wave veteran Emmanuelle Riva, whose heartbreaking portrait of a proud woman succumbing to the indignities of dementia is both superb in itself and the Cannes equivalent of Oscar bait. There’s a strong possibility the jury could be sufficiently persuaded by “Amour” to recognize it with both acting prizes, but if it only gets one, this will be it. Riva’s competition, meanwhile, is not inconsiderable: crowd favorite Cotillard is outstanding in a similarly awards-friendly role, Margarethe Tiesel, unflatteringly naked for much of sex-tourism black comedy “Paradise: Love,” exudes the kind of “bravery” that routinely impresses juries, while Nicole Kidman’s juicy against-type turn in the otherwise roundly dismissed “The Paperboy” set more tongues wagging than any other actor’s work in the fest.

Will win: Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”

Could win: Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone”; Margarethe Tiesel, “Paradise: Love”; Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, “Beyond the Hills”

Should win: Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy” 

Palme d’Or

Honestly? I haven’t the faintest idea. The smart money is on “Amour,” which makes the most sense on paper, but I’m resisting the idea. If Michael Haneke hadn’t won for “The White Ribbon” three years ago, it’d probably be in the bag this time, but only one previous filmmaker has won two Palmes for back-to-back films — not that Haneke is unworthy of sharing a record with, uh, Bille August — and his latest, immaculately accomplished though it is, doesn’t represent any particular breakthrough for the director. (I’m reminded of when Mike Leigh, two years ago, was hailed by breathless critics as a frontrunner for “Another Year” throughout the festival, only to be rewarded with zilch from the jury.) “Holy Motors” would be the hip choice, but I have no idea how Leos Carax’s beautiful oddity played with Nanni Moretti, or indeed the majority of the jury. Which is why I’m settling on “Rust and Bone” as a compromise choice: it’s not universally loved, but it’s both stylish enough and emotionally forceful enough to unite two potentially opposed factions on the jury. Seems as good a guess as any — which is another way of saying I’m surely wrong. 

Will win: “Rust and Bone,” Jacques Audiard

Could win: “Amour,” “Holy Motors”; “In the Fog”

Should win: “Holy Motors,” Leos Carax 

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter. 

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