The Cannes Film Festival just wrapped up its 71st edition and the film with the biggest Oscar potential got a big boost at the closing ceremony. Spike Lee’s, “BlacKkKlansman,” the true story of an African-American cop who infiltrated the KKK, took home the Grand Prix, the second highest prize of the festival. It was Lee’s first time competing on the Croisette since 1991 when “Jungle Fever” was in competition and was a bit of retribution for Lee after his widely acclaimed 1989 film, “Do the Right Thing,” received nothing from the jury.
If “BlacKkKlansman” were to get nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, it would be the second time a Grand Prix winner has gotten into the race for Oscar’s top honor. The first was “Life is Beautiful” in 1998. Thirteen past Grand Prix winners went on to earn 22 total Oscar nominations with five films scoring seven wins. Each of that quintet — “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” from Italy (1970); “Cinema Paradiso” from Italy (1989); “Burnt by the Sun” from Russia (1994); “Life is Beautiful” from Italy (1998); and “Son of Saul” from Hungary (2015) — won Best Foreign-Language Film. “Life is Beautiful” also won Best Actor (Roberto Benigni) and Original Dramatic Score.
But the big prize at Cannes is the coveted Palme d’Or and this year it went to Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s family drama, “Shoplifters.” The film, about a family of small-time criminals who take in an abandoned street child, was one of the best reviewed films at this year’s festivities. The film’s win here could catapult it into serious Oscar consideration. Since 1955, 38 winners of this top honor have amassed a total of 128 Academy Award nominations, with 28 Oscar wins spanning 16 films. And 15 Palme d’Or champs scored Best Picture nominations: “Marty” (1955), “Friendly Persuasion” (1957), “M*A*S*H” (1970), “The Conversation” (1974), “Taxi Driver” (1976), “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “All That Jazz” (1979), “Missing” (1982), “The Mission” (1986), “The Piano” (1993), “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “Secrets & Lies” (1996), “The Pianist” (2002), “The Tree of Life” (2011) and “Amour” (2012). “Marty” is the only film that has won both prizes.
However, given the spotty Oscar track record of foreign-language winners of the Palme d’Or, the prospects for Kore-eda in the main Oscar races may not be as promising as they would otherwise seem. Should Japan submit the film for the Foreign Language Film prize (and they already submitted a Kore-eda film in 2004 with “Nobody Knows”), it could get some momentum there. Five Palme d’Or champs have gone on to win the Foreign-Language Film Oscar: “Black Orpheus” from France (1959), “A Man and a Woman” from France (1966), “The Tin Drum” from West Germany (1979), “Pelle the Conqueror” from Denmark (1988) and “Amour” from Austria (2012). And nine others were nominated for that Oscar: “Keeper of Promises” from Brazil (1962), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” from France (1964), “Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior” from Japan (1980), “Man of Iron” from Poland (1981), “When Father Was Away on Business” from Yugoslavia (1985), “Farewell My Concubine” from Hong Kong (1993), “The Class” from France (2008), “The White Ribbon” from Germany (2009) and “The Square” from Sweden (2017).
The Jury Prize, which went to Nadine Labaki’s widely praised “Capernaum,” has a little Oscar correlation. This was Labaki’s first film in competition after her previous two films, “Caramel” in 2007 and “Where Do We Go Now?” in 2011, were screened in the Director’s Fortnight and Un Certain Regard respectively. Both those films were submitted by Lebanon for the Foreign Language Film contest but failed to get nominated. Eleven films that have won the Jury Prize have amassed 36 Oscar nominations and nine total wins. Among those wins were one for Best Picture (“All About Eve” which played at Cannes in 1951, the year after its six Oscar wins) and two for Best Foreign Language Film (“Mon Oncle” in 1958 from France and “Z” in 1969 from Algeria).
Pawel Pawlikowski claimed the Best Director prize for his bleak romantic-drama, “Cold War.” Pawlikowski is no stranger to Oscar as his previous film, “Ida,” became the first Polish film to win Foreign Language Film in 2014. But only six of the helmers who prevailed here went on to contend at the Oscars in the same category: Robert Altman for “The Player” (1992); Joel Coen for “Fargo” (1996); David Lynch for “Mulholland Drive” (2001); Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Babel” (2006); Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007); and Bennett Miller for “Foxcatcher” (2014). Both “Fargo” and “Babel” earned Best Picture nominations.
Best Actor went to a foreign performance, Italian actor Marcello Fonte for his performance in Matteo Garrone’s crime drama “Dogman.” Fifteen winners of the Best Actor award at Cannes have been nominated by the academy and five have taken home Oscar: Ray Milland for “The Lost Weekend” (1945); Jon Voight for “Coming Home” (1978); William Hurt for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1985); Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds” (2009, Supporting); and Jean Dujardin for “The Artist” (2011). Only one foreign language performance, Javier Bardem in “Biutiful” in 2010, which doesn’t bode well for Fonte.
Another foreign performer picked up Best Actress, Samal Yeslyamova, for her role as an impoverished immigrant woman living on the streets of Moscow in Sergey Dvortsevoy’s, “Ayka.” Twenty past Cannes champs for Best Actress received nominations from the academy, and four won: Simone Signoret for “Room at the Top” (1959); Sophia Loren for “Two Women” (1961); Sally Field for “Norma Rae” (1979); and Holly Hunter for “The Piano” (1993). Best Actress has been more accommodating to foreign winners from Cannes. In addition to that win by Loren (Italian), Melina Mercouri (“Never on Sunday” in 1960) and Penelope Cruz (“Volver” in 2006) both earned Best Actress nominations for performances in Greek and Spanish, respectively.
Like last year, the award for Best Screenplay ended in a tie between two foreign language films: “Happy as Lazzaro” (Alice Rohrwacher) from Italy and “3 Faces” (Jafar Panahi and Nader Saeivar) from Iran. Four screenplay winners at Cannes have gone on to the Foreign Language Film Oscar: “Mephisto” from Hungary (1981), “No Man’s Land” from Bosnia and Herzegovina (2001), “The Barbarian Invasions” from Canada (2003) and “The Salesman” from Iran (2016). And two others were nominated: “Footnote” from Israel (2011) and “Leviathan” from Russia (2014).
Getting nominated might not be that tough for Rohrwacher if Italy submits her film. Panahi on the other hand might have a tougher time as he is currently banned from making films in Iran and is forbidden from leaving the country. This could further complicate things when the Farabi Cinema Foundation makes its decision about which film to submit on the country’s behalf for Oscar consideration.
Even with the awards being very spread out, which is stipulated by the rules of the Cannes Film Festival, several very well-received movies did go home empty-handed. Among the movies left out of the closing ceremonies were “Burning” by Lee Chang-dong, “Ash is Purest White” by Jia Zhang-ke, “Leto” by Kirill Serebrennikov and “The Wild Pear Tree” by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.