There were a number of surprises among the Cannes 2014 winners, in a year in which there were a number of very strong titles but no clear White Ribbon-style masterpiece as a shoo-in for the top award.
Most had expected Andrei Zviagyntsev’s Leviathan to take the top honours (it won Best Screenplay instead), but Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep was by no means an outside choice. The Turkish auteur’s most dialogue-driven film was another favourite on the Croisette.
The 3hr 16min opus is about self-obsessed Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a wealthy landowner and former actor who runs a hotel in the troglodyte region of central Anatolia with his much younger wife Nihal (Melisa Sozen).
Aydin isn’t a sympathetic protagonist, but he is a fully realised one, and his philosophical debates with his sister and wife have an undeniable rhythm, even as his hypocritical relationship with the local Iman give the film its limited narrative thrust.
Some had speculated, or hoped, that 25-year-old Xavier Dolan had a shot at the big prize with his touching and inventive Mommy. With his fifth film (and fourth in Cannes), Mommy was his first in Competition. Perhaps the jury knew he would have many more chances for the Palme d’Or in decades to come and instead gave him the Jury Prize.
Julianne Moore won best actress for Maps To The Stars. While her role in David Cronenberg film had been widely praised, more critics had tipped Marion Cotillard to win for her role in the Dardennes’ widely loved Two Days, One Night. There was also hope for Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria and Anne Dorval in Mommy.
Timothy Spall had been one of the favourites to win Best Actor for his mammoth performance, grunts and all, in Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner. His strongest competition would have been from Steve Carell playing against type in Foxcatcher.
Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher was well reviewed, and prompted early awards-season buzz. Yet most had not predicted him to win Best Director, thinking perhaps that all the European filmmakers might get a nod instead and the performances in the film would attract more attention - but it takes a special director to draw out such acting skills.
Along with Moore, it meant that the Americans got a better than usual share of the prizes.
There had been much speculation (or is that hope?) that Campion - the last woman to win the Palme d’Or with The Piano in 1993 - would inspire her jury to honour a female filmmaker amongst the prizes.
Indeed, Italian director Alice Rohrwacher did win the Grand Prix with The Wonders (Le Meraviglie). The film, alongside Mommy, confirmed the emergence of an original new voice in world cinema, lest anyone try to suggest she was helped to her prize by her gender.
Ken Loach, who has said that Jimmy’s Hall may be his last feature film, didn’t win any awards. It could be instead that the jury’s ‘career recognition’ this year was for 83-year-old Jean-Luc Godard, whose 3D essay Goodbye to Language drew mixed reviews (although praise from most French critics).
Still The Water director Naomi Kawase was in attendance at the awards ceremony, but left empty handed for her feature, which had a mostly damp reception at the festival.
Another shutout was Abderrahmane Sissako’s Mali-set topical drama Timbuktu, which had been another critical favourite. Argentina’s Damian Szifron has also been another buzz director with his ambitious comedic portmanteau, Wild Tales.
Of course, it will be the first Cannes in many years that festival favourites Jean-Luc and Pierre Dardenne left empty handed.
And many in Cannes would argue that one of the best films of the festival, Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure (Turist), might have scooped at least one of those prizes had it been selected for the Competition instead of sidelined in Un Certain Regard.