CANNES: The 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival draws to a close on Saturday with one of the tightest races in recent memory and critics fiercely divided over the 21 films competing for the Palme d’Or.
The 12 days of the world’s foremost film fest have been a blast of technicolour grandeur, kickstarted by Tom Cruise with his first trip to Cannes in 30 years to launch “Top Gun: Maverick”, accompanied by a French Air Force display team.
It was a great year for music-lovers – Baz Luhrmann shaking things up with his much-anticipated rock’n’roll biopic, “Elvis”, and critics blown away by an ultra-immersive documentary about David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream”.
In the main competition, the most searing images were no doubt in “Triangle of Sadness” with its extended sequence of projectile vomiting and violent diarrhoea on a cruise ship, that left audiences either howling with laughter or turning green.
Elsewhere, the entries tackled everything from a serial killer “cleansing” an Iranian holy city of prostitutes (“Holy Spider”) to the difficulties faced by migrants in Romania (“RMN”) and Belgium (“Tori and Lokita”) to a film told entirely from the point of view of a donkey (“EO”).
There was a wealth of Korean talent on the red carpet, with “Squid Game” star Lee Jung-Jae showing his directorial debut, “Hunt”, while Song Kang-ho (“Parasite”) and K-pop superstar Lee Ji-eun starred in touching adoption tale “Broker”.
The war in Ukraine cast a shadow over proceedings from the start.
There was bitter debate over the nomination of a Russian director, Kirill Serebrennikov, for his film “Tchaikovsky’s Wife”.
Even though he explicitly condemned the war, some Ukrainians at the festival argued there was no such thing as “a good Russian” in the current context, while others – such as documentary-maker Sergei Loznitsa – said such attitudes were “inhumane”.
Meanwhile, critics seemed unable to coalesce around any of the films in competition.
The possible exceptions were “Armageddon Time”, a story about the friendship between a young Jewish American boy and his Black schoolmate in 1980s Queens, starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Hathaway.
Also gaining mostly strong reviews was “Decision to Leave” – another Korean entry. The Hitchcockian tale about a detective falling for a murder suspect comes from Park Chan-wook, known for his wild thriller “Oldboy”.
There was also a huge amount of buzz around one of the last films to show at the festival, “Close”, the tender, tragic story of two young boys learning to grapple with their budding sexuality.
“Kind of loving that there’s barely a film in Cannes… this year which isn’t wildly divisive,” tweeted Britain’s Telegraph critic Tim Robey, listing eight entries that were “despised AND adored”.
Some of the biggest buzz happened outside the main competition, with a lot of love for “Joyland”, a daring portrait of a transgender dancer in Pakistan.
It won the “Queer Palm” prize for best LGBT film – an award that has controversially never been fully recognised by the festival organisers – late Friday.
The main Cannes jury of nine film professionals, led by French actor Vincent Lindon and including two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, Indian superstar Deepika Padukone, have retired to a remote villa somewhere around the Cote d’Azur resort for deliberations.
Last year, the jury led by US director Spike Lee gave the Palme to a woman for only the second time in the festival’s history – French director Julia Ducournau for the gory and radical “Titane”.
Only five of the 21 films this year have a female director – though that is still a record for Cannes – with American Kelly Reichardt arguably the most likely of them to win a prize for her low-key story of artistic frustrations, “Showing Up”, starring Michelle Williams.