The French film industry has given itself an enormous pat on the back after three of the four films in competition for the prestigious Palme d’Or walked away with prizes from Sunday night’s awards ceremony in Cannes. Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan about Sri Lankan refugees in Paris took the top prize in a move that surprised critics who had tipped Todd Haynes’ Carol to take the award. Dheepan was not considered by many critics to be ‘vintage Audiard’ but it could have been compensation for the runner-up Grand Jury prize for Audiard’s The Prophet in 2009.
The Best Actor prize for Vincent Lindon for Stéphane Brizé’s La Loi du Marché (The Measure of a Man) was a popular choice and an emotional Lindon was given a standing ovation by festivalgoers as he went to the stage to collect his award.
Emmanuelle Bercot shared the Best Actress prize for Maiwenn’s Mon Roi with Rooney Mara for her performance in Carol. Bercot was on the other side of the camera for the festival’s opening film La Tête Haute,(Standing Tall) in only the second time a female-directed film has kicked off the festival in 28 years.
Elsewhere, Arnaud Desplechin’s Trois Souvenirs de Ma Jeunesse (My Golden Years), denied a place in the official selection for Palme d’Or had to be content with the SACD prize in the sidebar Director’s Fortnight competition. And veteran director Agnès Varda became the first woman to receive an honorary Palme d’Or following in the footsteps of Woody Allen (2002), Clint Eastwood (2009) and Bernardo Bertolucci (2011).
French politicians were quick to congratulate the winners after the closing ceremony. Writing on Twitter, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said French cinema was ‘shining in Cannes and around the world’ while Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin sent out her best wishes to the three winners. French centre-right newspaper Le Monde was quick to point out government ministers might have been a bit quick off the mark in their praise as neither Dheepan or La Loi du Marché presents a flattering portrait of modern French society. The paper claims Audiard’s film show how French suburbs are ravaged by drugs and violence while Brizé chronicles the devastating effect of unemployment on ordinary French citizens.
Whatever the complaints, most critics agree Cannes 2015 was an excellent year for the festival.