CANNES, FRANCE—The 59th Cannes Film Festival jury opted for big themes and multiple prizes, focusing—per its president, Wong Kar-wai—on films that inspired solidarity and hope. Thus, confounding prognosticators, the Palme d’Or was presented to The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a psychologically uncomplicated account of the Irish Republican Army in the 1920s, described in director Ken Loach’s acceptance speech as an exposé of British imperialism.
In another surprise, the runner-up Grand Prix went to Flandres, a more abstract—and less well received—war film by French director Bruno Dumont. A third combat story (as well as a critique of French imperialism), Rachid Bouchareb’s old-fashioned infantry drama Days of Glory, won the Best Male Performance award for its ensemble of French North African actors. In a parallel presentation, the jury gave a collective prize to the five leading actresses of Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver—including Carmen Maura and Penélope Cruz. Perhaps to assuage what the next morning’s Nice Matin termed “l’affront à Pedro,” Volver—widely favored to win—received an additional award for its screenplay. Alejandro González Iñárritu was cited as best director for Babel, another presumed Palme d’Or contender. Also unexpected was the third-place Jury Prize given Red Road, a modest thriller by British neophyte Andrea Arnold—and, reportedly, a movie for which several Cannes sections had themselves competed.
Although Flanders was relatively polarizing, the jury’s decisions avoided controversy and innovation. Lou Ye’s politically audacious Summer Palace failed to get a single mention. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Climates and Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, two warmly received career bests, were shut out (although the former won the International Critics Prize); so too the competition’s three most divisive entries, Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth, Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (most appreciated, ironically, by France’s aesthetic Jacobins). Wang Chao’s Luxury Car, a low-keyed noir set in contemporary China, was named best film in the Un Certain Regard section; the Romanian comedy A Fost Sau N-a Fost? (12:08, East of Bucharest) by Corneliu Porumboiu won the Camera d’Or for best first film.