British auteur Ken Loach won the deservedly Palm d’Or for his deeply moving story of an unsympathetic bureaucracy, I Daniel Blake, on Sunday at the closing ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival. This is the second time that Loach has won the coveted trophy for the best movie, having clinched it in 2006 for his brilliant Irish civil war drama, The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
Loach now joins the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Haneke, Shohei Imamura, Bille August, Emir Kusturica and brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne -- who had also garnered the Palm d’Or twice. Loach, who is 79, has had 13 of his films in Cannes Competition, and has been awarded the Jury Prize -- in addition to the top Palm d’Or -- three times, most recently in 2012 for The Angel’s Share.
Loach -- who has been threatening to retire from movie-making since the past few years -- said in his acceptance speech: “We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible. The world we live in is at a dangerous point right now. We are in the grip of a dangerous project of austerity-driven by ideas that we call neo-liberalism that have brought us to near catastrophe.”
While Loach’s work went extremely well with critics, the jury, headed by Australia’s George Miller, disappointed them in some other areas. Maren Ade’s German comedy Toni Erdmann -- about a father’s desperate attempts to knock sense into his workaholic daughter -- and Jim Jarmusch’s Patterson -- about the extraordinarily ordinary life of an American bus driver and his wife (played by Iranian beauty Golshifteh Farahani) -- went unsung at Cannes.
So did Spanish master Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta, an extremely moving story about a mother-daughter relationship that takes a dive after the death of the girl’s father in a fishing accident.
Another competing work, Jeff Nichols’ Loving -- a hard look at an inter-racial marriage in the 1950s America and the hostility the couple face -- was another disappointing miss of the evening.
Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only The End Of The World got the festival’s Grand Prize despite a critical lambast during its press screening. The Canadian filmmaker, who is just 27 and who won the Jury Prize for Mommy two years ago, presented in his latest creation a family drama that looked highly theatrical and even somewhat superficial.
Iran’s Asghar Farhadi -- whose The Separation marked a new high in his country’s cinema -- won two prizes for this year’s The Salesman: Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Shahab Hosseini. The Salesman is about a couple in a touring production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman whose relationship sours after an elderly intruder walks into their home and watches the wife taking a shower.
Farhadi’s honour follows his 2013 The Past, which clinched the Best Actress Palm for Berenice Bejo.
The Best Actress award went to Jaclyn Jose for her lead role in the Filipino helmer, Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa, where she essays a harried impoverished mother of four in Manila who sells drugs to make ends meet.
The Best Director Palm was shared by two: France’s Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper (also booed at during the press show) starring Kristen Stewart, and Romania’s Cristian Mungiu with Graduation -- an first-class study of parental dilemma over a daughter’s future.
Graduation was Mungiu’s third movie to screen in Competition following 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days in 2007, which won the Palme d’Or, and Beyond The Hills, which scooped the best screenplay honour and joint best actress for its leads in 2012.
Britain’s Andrea Arnold won the Jury Prize for American Honey -- which was no patch on her earlier Red Road. American Honey follows some teenagers who sell magazine subscription during the day and party hard at night.
For Arnold, this was her third Jury Prize -- after Fish Tank in 2009 and Red Road in 2006.
Next year, Cannes 70th edition will coincide with India’s 70th anniversary of independence, and one hopes that it will be different from India’s no-show this time in the festival’s official sections.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran covered the Cannes Film Festival from May 11 to 22.)