If there was an award for the smartest American distributor at the Cannes Film Festival, it would have to go to Neon, which won the Palme d’Or for the fourth time in a row at the end of the 76th edition on Saturday. The top prize went to French director Justine Triet for “Anatomy of the Fall,” a murder mystery and courtroom drama starring Sandra Hüller, which Neon won shortly after its festival premiere on Tuesday.
In the two weeks leading up to the end of this year’s festival, the critical consensus focused on “The Zone of Interest,” Jonathan Glazer’s austere riff on Martin Amis’s novel about the commandant of Auschwitz. As a result, many assumed it would be an obvious choice for Palme.
But that’s not the award critics choose; the jury is made up of filmmakers and actors who tend to reach a consensus decision for the main award, while also spreading the love in other categories (the Palm winner cannot be awarded with another award). “Zone” won the Grand Prix – essentially second place – and set up the A24 project for a bright future beyond the festival. The German-language work could end up as an international Oscar for the UK, while the film’s impeccable execution could land it in other big categories, including Best Director and Best Picture.
Still, many journalists were surprised that the one film that generated the most buzz in two weeks didn’t take home the top prize. “It wasn’t easy,” said a coquettish Ostlund at the jury’s press conference. “I think we all had to really fight for what we thought was the right film, and the competition was tough.” He added that the “Anatomy” premiere “was an intense screening. This is exactly what cinema should be about. I’m really excited to see this film out into the world.”
For now, the spotlight shines brightest on “Anatomy of a Fall” — and it’s in good company. Neon’s first Palme win came in 2020 with “Parasite,” which launched it into a long awards season that ended with a historic Best Picture win. This was followed by 2021’s “Titane,” Julia Ducournau’s feminist body-horror experiment that became France’s official submission, and last year’s Ruben Ostlund-directed satire “Triangle of Sadness,” which was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay Oscars. . Will “Anatomy of a Fall” continue down a similar path?
This year’s jury included the directors of the latter’s two winners, chaired by Ostlund. The Swedish filmmaker said at the beginning of the festival that he would rather win a third Palme d’Or than an Oscar. Still, since both Palme d’Or winners were also Oscar nominees (the square’s previous Palmeer was also nominated), Ostlund understands the potential springboard effect of a Palme win — and Neon, which will now be one. aims to position the film for the year ahead with some obvious categories.
A Cannes favorite since her acclaimed turn in the 2016 comedy “Toni Erdmann,” Hüller also had a supporting role as the wife of Christian Friedel’s commandant at Auschwitz. Many expected Hüller to take home the best actress award in the festival’s most outstanding year. She didn’t, but she was invited back to the festival to join Triet on stage for the awards show, and the UTA-repped actress has a good chance to expand her American profile this year as the centerpiece of a largely English-language production.
It also presents a particular challenge for “Anatomy” when it comes to Oscar potential. “Anatomy of the Fall” proves to be a very challenging theatrical offer, but the audience wary of so-called “foreign language” films will not be deterred by this. In the film, Hüller plays a German novelist accused of murdering her husband at their snow lodge. Her courtroom interrogation consumes much of the story as she swims in ambiguity and often uses English to communicate because her character struggles in French.
Oscar requirements for international entries require that at least 51 percent of the dialogue be in a language other than English, and English dominates many of the film’s key scenes. But sources tell IndieWire that the mk2 sales agent is making it clear during negotiations that the dialogue for “Anatomy” is predominantly French and could be eligible for the country’s Oscars if the committee chooses it later this year. Now it’s up to the Academy to check the math.
Triet’s Palme d’Or is only the third time the award has gone to a woman, following Ducournau’s 2021 win, which followed Jane Campion’s 1993 award for “The Piano”. 33 percent of the Cannes selection was directed by women, in seven competitions, the chance of another woman winning the prize was greater than ever before. On stage to present this year’s announcement of the Palme d’Or, Jane Fonda put this development in a historical context, recalling her first trip to the festival in the early 1960s. “There were no female directors competing at the time, and it didn’t occur to us that there was anything wrong with that,” she said. “We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go, but we still need to celebrate change when it happens.”
Still, it would be foolish to argue that the jury chose Triet solely on the basis of her gender. “Anatomy of a Fall” is top-notch Hitchcockian storytelling with a bold legal twist that keeps audiences guessing, and follows Triet’s well-received dark comedy “Sybil,” which played in competition in 2019. Cannes has been well received for some time. “This film is the most intimate film I’ve ever written, the closest to me,” he said in his speech at Cannes. He added that he originally planned the project as a TV series until his producers talked him into making the film. “I thought I would move on quickly, do something different,” he said. “All I want to say at this stage is that I’m very happy to have made a film.”
Triet’s speech took a political turn as he acknowledged the current outcry over France’s decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. He also expressed concern that the end of France’s “cultural exception” for art would reduce added value. tax for creative endeavors. “The sale of culture protected by the French government breaks the French cultural exception,” he said. “Without this cultural exception, I would not be here before you today. We recommend this award to all those who cannot shoot a film today. I took this place 15 years ago in a less hostile world where it was still possible to make mistakes and start over.”
The specificity of these comments may remain part of Triet’s campaign as “Anatomy of a Fall” makes its way out into the world. But whatever happens next, it seems likely that the profile will continue to grow after Cannes. As the host of the ceremony, Chiara Mastroianni, said at the beginning of the show: “This is the closing night, but it’s not over yet. Viewers are now stepping in and spreading the word about the films here.”