After the Oscars, the Palme d’Or is the most prestigious film award in the business, and it’s a lot less predictable. Coming from a jury usually comprised of actors and directors, it arrives as the outcome of furious debate and often conflicting values about the nature of the art form. There is no mathematical formula for predicting the Palme d’Or, and educated guesswork can be misleading, but it’s still worth a shot.
Handed out at the festival since 1955, the golden prize represents the pinnacle of prestige for the filmmaker who receives it. As Cannes presents itself as the nexus of the greatest cinema on the planet, the prize is an extension of that mentality, and it invites winners into an exclusive club that spans film history. Recipients of the Palme d’Or have ranged from “Black Orpheus” and “La Dolce Vita” to “Apocalypse Now.” In some cases, the prize has anointed emerging talent, such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul with “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” or Ruben Ostlund with “The Square”; at others, it has provided the opportunity to celebrate a veteran filmmaker at the top of their game, from Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”) to Ken Loach (“The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” “I, Daniel Blake”) to Michael Haneke (“Amour,” “The White Ribbon”).
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The Palme has been handed out to filmmakers from a wide array of backgrounds, though only two women have won the award before: Jane Campion (“The Piano”) and, last year, Julia Ducourneau (“Titane”). The absence of parity is one of many representational issues for the festival, but the jury is at the mercy of the program and must work with its options.
The outcome can go a lot of different directions. The year Steven Spielberg headed the jury, several members wanted to give the Palme to the grim Russian drama “Leviathan,” but the prize instead went to lesbian romance “Blue is the Warmest Color.” And in the year that “Toni Erdmann” was a critical favorite, jury president George Miller reportedly hated it; the prize went to “I, Daniel Blake.” When Pedro Almodovar served as president, he was a passionate fan of the queer period piece “BPM,” but a lack of jury consensus resulted in the award going to “The Square.” The president may be a prominent voice at the table, but gets one vote along with the rest of the jurors, and it’s impossible to know whether they can find common ground until the penultimate day of the festival when deliberation takes place.
What will this year’s jury do? Again, that question has no obvious answer, but there are some clues that will help inform possibilities as this year’s 21-film competition unfurls over the course of the festival. The jury is headed by French actor Vincent Lindon, who was at Cannes last year with a daring physical turn in “Titane,” but is generally known for starring in socially-conscious dramas told from more traditional points of view (like 2016’s “The Measure of a Man,” which landed him a Cannes prize for Best Actor). Penelope Cruz was initially supposed to head the jury, but had to drop out due to scheduling issues.
Often, actor-driven juries are inclined to anoint more accessible emotional undertakings, while filmmakers advocate for ambitious cinematic gambles, and directors actually outnumber Lindon on his own jury. Most of them have premiered recent films in competition at the festival: Asghar Farhadi (“A Hero”), Ladj Ly (“Les Miserables”), Jeff Nichols (“Mud”), and Joaquim Trier (“The Worst Person in the World”), and they all make complex work that juggles filmmaking artistry with emotional weight. There’s also an actor-turned-director in Rebecca Hall, whose “Passing” premiered at Sundance last year, in addition to actors Deepika Pauline, Noomi Rapace, and Jasmine Trinca.
The jury generally watches two to three films a day over the course of the 12-day festival on the same timeline as the rest of the exclusive crowd. That means the Palme d’Or race evolves on a day-to-day basis. As usual, this list will be updated throughout the festival to reflect the changing narrative. The ranking goes from least to most likely to win, and the list reflects the quality of the lineup, the presumed preferences of the jury, and whatever Cannes gossip happens to be making its way around the Croisette.
That means a lot can change, so keep checking back here for updates in the days ahead. The Palme d’Or will be handed out at the closing ceremony on Saturday, May 28.
20. “Brother and Sister”
French director Arnaud Desplechin is a Cannes regular who tends to make talky family dramas, and his latest is no exception. The grim story of adult siblings (Melvin Poupaud and Marion Cotillard) who argue about jealousy over each other success gets exacerbated when their parents wind up in the hospital and they’re forced to attempt reconciliation. Critics have been unkind to the melodrama at the core of the movie, and with its unadventurous plot, the movie is unlikely to make much of an impact on this year’s jury. Read IndieWire’s review here.
19. “The Eight Mountains”
Belgian director Felix van Groeningen was nominated for an Oscar for “Broken Circle Breakdown,” but makes his first appearance in Cannes competition with this adaptation of the 2016 novel, co-directed by Charlotte Vandermeersch in her debut. The gorgeous, pensive drama looks at a pair of men who befriend each other in a remote mountain town during childhood and develop a complex adult relationship informed in part by the gap in privilege that impacts their maturation. At two-and-a-half hours, this voiceover-heavy character study lacks much in the way of conflict, so it’s hard to imagine it leaving much of a lasting effect on this year’s jury. Read IndieWire’s full review here.
18. “Tchaikovsky’s Wife”
Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov has been making controversial headlines due to the oligarch who helped finance the film, and its very presence in this year’s competition has elicited backlash due to the war in Ukraine. If the movie was a frontrunner for the Palme d’Or, that discussion would get a lot more complicated with this year’s jury, but it’s unlikely they’ll give the top prize to this moody look at the famed composer’s first wife, who went mad after discovering his sexuality. Though some members of the jury may appreciate the surreal flourishes and an attempt to complicate Russian cultural history, that response is more likely to yield another category win like screenplay. Read IndieWire’s review here.
17. “The Stars at Noon”
Claire Denis’ first time in Cannes competition since “Chocolat” is another mostly English-language effort from the director’s Best Director win for “Fire” at Berlinale earlier this year. This time, she adapts Denis Johnson’s novel about a young American journalist (Margaret Qualley) who meets an enigmatic British businessman (Joe Alwyn) in Nicaragua and develops a heated romance with him. Equal parts sensual melodrama and espionage drama, the movie features Denis’ usual visual prowess and emotional intensity, though some critics have been put off by the slow-burn plot and murky politics. The jury may appreciate the performances at the center what ultimately amounts to a minimalist two-hander, but is almost certain to focus on other possibilities for the Palme. Read IndieWire’s review here.
16. “Forever Young”
French actor-turned-director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi last came to Cannes with “A Castle in Italy” in 2013, and returns with this far more personal 80s-set work about an acting troupe working under famed theater director Patrice Chéreau. The ensemble drama follows a group of actors accepted to Chéreau’s exclusive school as they hang out, fall in love, and contend with tragic developments that endanger their future. Tedeschi trades big plot twists for subtle world-building and lingering in the complexities of a coming-of-age story rooted in a precise moment for French youth culture. That lack of cohesive drama may hold the movie back from much traction in the Palme conversation, though some members of the jury may respect enough about the emotional focus of the work (and its fixation on evolving creative identity) to anoint it with another prize, perhaps for its screenplay.
Italian director Mario Martone’s new thriller follows middle-aged man who returns to Naples to see his mother, and in the process, revisit the neighborhood where he grew up. In the process, of dealing with his frail mother’s needs, he reckons with how much his life has changed, as well as the world that leaves behind. That includes his own childhood friend, who stuck around and became a prominent local bad guy. Reviews have been respectful but not ecstatic for this moody look at the struggle to reconcile one’s past and present. Given its straightforward narrative and accessible emotions, the film might appeal to some jurors for its cohesiveness, but it lacks the kind of singular emotion that tends to push certain contenders into Palme territory. Read IndieWire’s review here.
14. “Triangle of Sadness”
Cannes Film Festival
Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s first English-language feature (and first directing credit since his Palme d’Or winner “The Square”) is a wild and provocative class satire designed to make its audiences squirm. Ostlund delivers a riotous skewering of the fashion world that finds a young pair of celebrity influencers (Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean) as two of several unfortunate passengers on a cruise ship on the verge of catastrophe at the helm of its Marxist captain (Woody Harrelson). The movie begins at a leisurely pace before careening into chaos in a slew of bodily fluids as everything goes ridiculously wrong onboard and a few survivors find themselves washed up on a deserted island. Ostlund’s kooky style and obvious symbolism isn’t for everyone, and it’s hard to imagine that this divisive title would win over enough jury members to convince them that the director deserves another Palme. But it’s a very Cannes sort of crowdpleaser, and one that will almost certainly lead to furious debates that could yield some sort of prize at the end of the festival. Read IndieWire’s review here.
13. “Boy From Heaven”
Cannes Film Festival
Swedish-Egyptian director Tarik Saleh (“The Nile Hilton Incident”) makes his Cannes debut with this tense critical look at corruption within Cairo’s religious institutions. The story of a fisherman’s son (Tawfeek Barhom) from a remote town who gets a scholarship to go to school in Cairo, the movie finds the young man drawn into a conspiratorial scenario in which a government agent attempts to turn him into an informant and influence the election of the new imam. Critics have compared the movie to John Grisham and John le Carré alike, as the film utilizes a sophisticated thriller aesthetic to explore complex questions about the potential for religious institutes to exert power over facets of society. Saleh (who has been banned from Egypt) is the kind of socially conscious filmmaker whose work may strike some jurors as Palme-worthy, though the film’s rather straightforward plot (and some plot holes) could hold it back from consensus. Read IndieWire’s review here.
12. “Holy Spider”
Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi returns to Cannes with his follow-up to 2018’s Un Certain Regard winner “Border” with a disturbing look at a notorious true crime story in Iran: the story of so-called “spider killer” Saeed Hanaei (Mehdi Bajestani) who murdered 16 prostitutes in Mashad in 2001 before his arrest. Hanaei believed he was on a holy mission to cleanse the city, and after he was captured, a lot of local extremists — and even some media outlets — agreed with him. The movie explores this infuriating saga through the eyes of a fictional female journalist (Zahra Amir Ebrahimi) who tracks down the culprit while contending with misogyny and indifference from authorities. Abbasi shot the movie in Jordan to circumnavigate Iranian censorship, and the movie’s critical look at the country strikes a contrast with much work from the country that has been approved by its censors. That representational achievement helps this grounded procedural stand out, and the movie has been well-received. At the same time, its rather straightforward narrative approach makes it less of a Palme contender than the sort of respectable achievement the jury may want to acknowledge through another prize — perhaps best actress for Ebrahimi, making her big comeback after she was humiliated in Iran and forced to reboot her career abroad. Read IndieWire’s review here.
11. “Leila’s Brothers”
Iranian director Saeed Roustaee’s first Cannes entry (his crime drama “Just 6.5” was a critical hit) is a complex ensemble drama about a formerly successful family in which an elderly man (Saeed Poursamimi) contemplates whether or not to disperse his wealth among his five kids. In the meantime, the grown offspring bicker endlessly, with the four men of the household swirling around the titular Leila Taraneh Alidoosti) as she navigates their toxic masculinity and attempts to salvage the family’s financial stability. The movie’s epic runtime and rather straightforward narrative could hold it back from Palme consideration, though Roustaee’s ability to juggle so many characters with credible performances and constant energy means that appreciation for it could linger. At the very least, the film should figure into conversations about prizes for performances and possibly the screenplay.
10. “Decision to Leave”
Courtesy Cannes Film Festival
Korean auteur Park Chan-wook’s first feature since 2016’s “The Handmaiden” marks a notable shift for the genre director best known for the violent extremes of “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Oldboy.” A kind of romantic noir that keeps audiences guessing until the end, the movie stars Park Hae-il as a detective who becomes obsessed with the widow (Tang Wei) of a man who dies under mysterious circumstances in a climbing accident. Instead of following the traditional beats of a murder mystery, however, “Decision to Leave” deals more with the investigator figuring out the intricacies of the widow’s former marital troubles even as the man contends with some of his own. The result is a stylish and even sensitive work from a director not usually known for those qualities, but the skillful filmmaking remains intact. The movie itself is a bit of a strange mishmash that heads toward a fairly predictable twists, which means the jury might not want to give it the top prize over a more fully realized work. But Park is such a talented filmmaker that could still wind up with some kind of award at the end of the festival. Read IndieWire’s review here.
Fifteen years ago, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu won the Palme d’Or for “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” at the height of the Romanian New Wave, and has maintained a steady output of Cannes successes since then. His 2012 drama “Beyond the Hills” scored him a Best Screenplay award and 2016’s “Graduation” won him Best Director. Few filmmakers win the Palme more than once, but Mungiu’s effective blend of social realism and bleak-but-gripping scenarios have been so consistently strong that it wouldn’t be unthinkable for him to bag the gold once more. That’s certainly a possibility for “RMN,” another grim and insightful look at provincial life and uncomfortable power structures from a director who digs into them better than anyone. The story of a dyspeptic man who quits his job in Germany to return to his village in Transylvania, “RMN” initially focuses on his efforts to help his young child while developing a romance with a local woman, but eventually it expands to look at the way the community reacts to the arrival of several immigrant workers. While the protagonist faced xenophobia in his old job, the new arrivals face the same racism here, an irony that leads to a series of taut showdowns and gripping conversations about personal values and bias. Blending jittery naturalism with thrilling showdowns and even a surreal climax, “RMN” is Mungiu’s most fully realized work since “4 Months,” but its cerebral formalism may alienate some jurors in a year with such a wide array of options.
Catalan director Albert Serra is a cinematic provocateur with a compelling history at Cannes that includes his Jean-Pierre Leaud drama “The Death of Louis XIV” and the 18th century hardcore-sex-in-the-woods saga “Liberté,” which played Un Certain Regard in 2019. His new work is once again a study of powerful men who exploit disenfranchised people, but operates on a more dreamlike plane that has already invited comparisons to Apichatpong Weerasethakul and David Lynch. Benoit Magimel stars in a memorial central performance as a French diplomat who travels to Tahiti to take stock of the island and relish his authority there. Much of the movie finds the man absorbing island life, including an extraordinary sequence in which he rides waves alongside locals on a jetski, and others at a local dive bar that capture the prevalent malaise. In the meantime, paranoia about old nuclear tests in the region and a possible submarine lurking in nearby waters add a dose of paranoia to the proceedings that may or may not be reflective of central character’s own psychological instability. In terms of pure cinematic ambition, “Pacifiction” is certainly the most enigmatic and challenging work in this year’s competition, one sure to stir up admiration and curiosity among this year’s jury that could help it figure into awards discussions. That could mean an acting prize for Magimel or even a Grand Prix if respect for the filmmaking is high with many jurors, but the aimless nature of the narrative means it may not be quite cohesive enough to score the consensus needed for the Palme.
8. “Mother and Son”
Léonor Serraile’s first film in Cannes competition follows up her 2017 debut, Camera d’Or winner “Jeune Femme,” and her sophomore effort is proof that her first feature wasn’t a fluke. A moving look at the experiences of single mother Rose (Annabelle Lengronne) who immigrates to Paris from the Ivory Coast with her two young sons, the movie is narrated by one of the boys from his adult perspective as the events play out in the late 1980s. The drama is light on huge plot twists and heavy on texture, as it follows Rose through a series of relationships with men who can’t quite gel with the rest of her family unit, and the boys struggle to fit in. As her older son stumbles through his teen years and gets into trouble, “Mother and Son” evolves into an intriguing investigation into French identity and the challenges it presents to an outsider hoping to blend it. The movie fizzles over time as it advances toward the present day, and amounts to a series of well-directed scenes rather than some greater whole. That makes it a tough candidate for the Palme, even though it is the final film to screen in competition. Some jurors might want to reward it for performances or script but it’s hard to see it taking the top prize over more cohesive works this year.
Among the Palme d’Or veterans at this year’s festival, Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda has done particularly well with emotional crowdpleasers. His subtle approach to family dramas has yielded ecstatic praise for everything from “Like Father, Like Son” to “Shoplifters,” which won him the Palme and eventually an Oscar nomination. The filmmaker has entered an intriguing new career phase working outside the country, first with 2019’s French production “The Truth” (which premiered at Venice), and now this Korean-set outing that brings him back to familiar terrain. This time, he follows a pair of men (Gang Dong-won and “Parasite” star Song Kang-ho) who run an underground hustle to sell babies on the black market after they’re abandoned at a church. After they’re confronted by the remorseful mother (Lee Ji-eun) about their scheme, she decides to embark with them on a road trip to find the child a new home. Meanwhile, a pair of female police officers trail the trio, as “Broker” settles into the kind of lighthearted dramedy with deeper emotions lingering beneath the surface that Kore-eda does so well. The familiar genre elements at play here — the road trip in particular — do simplify the proceedings to some degree, even though Kore-eda’s skillful direction remains intact. The jury may appreciate some of the observations about family bonds and obligations, which could compel them to award the movie something for its script or performances. A Palme win isn’t out of the question either, as the premise is compelling enough to leave a mark and Kore-eda is definitely the kind of filmmaker well-positioned to join the two-timer club. But the jury may also feel stronger about other films with more intense emotion and filmmaking ambition.
6. “Tori and Lokita”
Few filmmakers thrive at Cannes better than Belgian duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, whose intense approach to social realism have gone a long way in these parts. The siblings have won the Palme d’Or twice, for “Rosetta” and “The Child,” in addition to a screenplay prize for “Lorna’s Silence” and the Grand Prix for “The Kid With a Bike.” Their latest is another timely character study, in this case focusing on a pair of African immigrants who pass as brother and sister while trying to get their immigration papers. In an attempt to stabilize their existence, Lokita (Joely Mbundu) gets by with drug dealing while plotting a better life and hopes to bring 11-year-old Tori (Pablo Schils) with her. But things get very bad very quickly as the Dardennes’ economic storytelling kicks in, and the movie evolves into a real-time thriller right on schedule. As usual, the Dardennes’ intense storytelling throbs with anger over economic disparity and violence that doesn’t make things easy for its viewers right down to the unsettling finale. The emotional weight of the drama could have a lasting effect on this year’s jury, but nobody’s won the Palme three times before, and the concision of the film means that it might be perceived as too “small” for the top prize. Still, it’s certain to remain in the conversation as one of the strongest filmmaking achievements in this year’s competition, and stands a good shot at winning something at the end of the day.
5. “Armageddon Time”
Over the years, Cannes has been a far more receptive audience to James Gray than his audiences back home in the U.S. The festival has screened five of his eight features at the festival: “The Yards,” “We Own the Night,” “The Immigrant,” “Two Lovers,” and now “Armageddon Time.” As an American director with European sensibilities, Gray’s penchant for intimate family dramas has often performed well with festival audiences, though the Palme d’Or has been elusive all that time. His latest may get him closer than his previous efforts, if only because it’s such an obvious personal project designed to make its emotions accessible to the audience. The Queens-set 1980s set ensemble piece follows a young Jewish boy (Michael Banks Repeta) who befriends a young African American classmate (Jaylin Webb) while contending with the menacing expectations of his parents (Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong) as well as his immigrant grandfather (Anthony Hopkins). Even as a familiar, emotionally resonant nostalgia piece, “Armageddon Time” has a lot on its mind about the impact of class and privilege on modern America, so it’s possible the Cannes jury might find some consensus on that front. At the same time, the movie’s narrow perspective (it’s a white perspective on racism) may rub some of the jurors the wrong way, and it lacks the kind of cinematic ambition that may be more likely to excite the filmmakers among them. Read IndieWire’s review here.
4. “Crimes of the Future”
Courtesy Everett Collection
David Cronenberg has returned to Cannes with his first feature since 2014 Cannes entry “Maps to the Stars,” and enthusiasm for his dystopian vision of physicality could not be higher. The director’s two-decade-old script about a couple of performance artists (Viggo Mortensen and Lea Seydoux) who remove artificial organs onstage as a kind of surreal performance, explores the interplay of technology and identity in ways that feel fresh and anticipatory even as they invite plenty of debate. Given the filmmaker-heavy jury, the movie is definitely one to keep an eye on: Directors have tremendous admiration for the 79-year-old filmmaker’s complex and singular vision behind the camera as well as his resilience; the movie’s blend of timely ideas and cinematic provocations also suggests the potential for a major prize. At the same time, Cronenberg’s work can be as baffling as it is insightful and ambitious. Some who have seen it at the festival have a lot of questions about what they just watched. If jury president Lindon is one of them, he may push back on a Palme win. For now, though, this one seems like a strong contender for many reasons, including the convincing “It’s his time” argument: Cronenberg has been to Cannes many times, and even headed the jury himself in 1999 — but unlike other veterans in the competition this year, hasn’t won the Palme yet. Read IndieWire’s review here.
3. “Showing Up”
Kelly Reichardt’s first film in competition is a world apart from 2020’s “First Cow,” and not just because it takes place in the present. Here, rather than exploring vast expanse of the Pacific Northwest, the filmmaker magnifies the plight of the modern artist. That’s Lizzy (Michelle Williams, in her fourth collaboration with the director), a curmudgeonly Portland ceramicist enmeshed in the neurotic process of preparing a new show while struggling to pay rent to her artist landlord (Hong Chau) and contending with the rest of her unstable creative family (including a mentally ill brother played by “First Cow” star John Magaro). Nobody does understatement like Reichardt, and her new movie is yet another constant stream of subtle moments, though they accumulate into an agreeable character study with occasional bursts of comedy and profound insights into the alienating effects of creative desire. (There’s also a subplot involving an injured pigeon that’s second only to “Eo” as the great animal rights statement of this year’s festival.) Even at her best, Reichardt’s style is an acquired taste, and some members of this year’s jury might feel that the muted narrative is so slow-paced. But the film is one of the best-reviewed titles in this year’s competition, with enough intelligence and singular vision to stand out from a busy pack of titles. It should at the very least figure into some discussions about the various awards in play. Read IndieWire’s review here.
At 84, Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimoski has lost none of his penchant for cinematic ambition, and this modern update of Robert Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar” is unexpected treat: a nearly-wordless story of the titular donkey (the title translates as “Hee Haw”) as he endures a vignette-like journey through different human hands as his constant case takes on metaphorical value. A vegan-friendly saga akin to “Cow” and “Gunda,” Skolimoski meditation on animal intelligence amidst human indifference isn’t exactly complex, but it’s poignant and engaging all the same. The jury might be inclined to reward the movie for its astute use of film language and Skolimoski’s longstanding reputation. Some might find it too slight for the big prize — but that very slightness is also what makes the film accessible, and its premise has the power to linger enough for jurors Read IndieWire’s review here.
Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s returns to Cannes follows his debut effort, “Girl,” which won the Un Certain Regard section in 2018. Now, at the age of 30, Dhont could very well become the youngest director to nab the Palme since a 26-year-old Steven Sodbergh took it for “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” in 1989 (before that, Louise Malle won it at 24 for co-directing “The Silent World” with Jacques Cousteau). Dhont’s sensitive drama looks at a 12-year-old boy Leo (Eden Dambrine) who deals with the fallout of a tragedy involving best friend Remi (Gustav De Waele). Though some critics have struggled with the particulars of that twist, Dhont’s confident directorial approach brings a level of authenticity to material that could easily devolve into mopey melodrama, and instead functions as an astute look at burgeoning queer desire as well as early heartbreak. This year’s filmmaker-heavy jury is likely to appreciate the blend of filmmaking confidence, strong performances, and emotional accessibility, a delicate juggling act that makes the movie far more likely to remain a Palme contender than other more divisive titles. Even if some jurors have reservations about aspects of “Close” (which A24 bought for U.S. distribution at the festival), it’s a more obvious consensus title than anything else in the competition. Read IndieWire’s review here.
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