The 2022 Cannes film festival has finished in a mercurial mood: a feeling that the middling quality of the competition list has been redeemed in the final few days by a fiercely welcomed late burst of excellence. There was respect for Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa for his documentary A Natural History of Destruction and for Mariupol 2, by the late Mantas Kvedaravičius, the film-maker killed by Russian forces while filming this moment-by-moment study of life in the besieged city. The latter was completed by Kvedaravičius’s co-director and partner Hanna Bilobrova in time to be shown here – film-making from the frontline.
But I have never seen a Cannes like this for radical disagreement among critics on almost every single title: there’s hardly been a film here that hasn’t experienced a range of takes of all different temperatures. Each director is offered a rave and a meh and a quote-tweet putdown for the same film, from critics who seem, on the basis of all their published work, to have roughly similar tastes and assumptions. Claire Denis’s coolly received erotic drama Stars at Noon found itself being subject to a snowballing social-media roasting, and then a frontlash of defence from those who felt that this mockery was well out of order.
Well, I can only say that at the beginning of the festival I felt restive that the established names, the silverback gorillas of Cannes, who seem to be assured of a place in the competition no matter what, were getting away with very average stuff. It is traditional at Cannes to announce that the films in the Un Certain Regard sidebar are better than the main competition, but there really is something in it this year. The Dardennes’ new social realist drama Tori and Lokita, about two teenage immigrants from Benin who face a desperate situation in Belgium, was valuably intended with strong moments, but really more of the same. James Gray’s autobiographical coming-of-age drama Armageddon Time, set in 80s New York, was stagey and forced. Ruben Östlund’s The Triangle of Sadness was a hammy, unsubtle, easy-target satire which seemed as if it had been grown in a lab for the Cannes film festival. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s road-trip heartwarmer Broker hit a succession of wrong notes.
But there have been some wonderful movies as well. Lukas Dhont’s Close, about the intense relationship between two teenage boys, had people sobbing in the theatre, and though I admit I thought that Dhont was going too directly for the tear-duct jugular, and that tragedy was a shortcut to greatness, it is very powerful film-making. People are calling it the Palme frontrunner. But for me the best films, and the ones I still think might pip Close at the post, are Park Chan-wook’s gorgeous noir love story Decision to Leave with Tang Wei as the mysterious care-worker who might be a murderer; the wonderful Le Otto Montagne by Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix van Groeningen, about a difficult friendship between two straight men who can’t talk about their feelings (an interesting point of comparison with Close); Mario Martone’s splendidly shot Nostalgia, which was a pleasure; and Albert Serra’s very freaky and dreamlike Pacifiction was a pure Cannes indulgence, moviemaking which is utterly distinctive, its flawed brilliance offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. David Cronenberg’s Ballardian post-human vision Crimes of the Future was regarded with disappointment by some here, but I found its talkiness part of its attraction: he is offering a cinema of ideas.
So here are predictions for the Cannes prizes, in which I am suggesting that the convention (which is not actually a hard and fast rule) that generally forbids giving two awards to the same film will be ignored this year. This is followed by my own personal predictions for categories which don’t yet exist at the Cannes film festival, but should.
Cannes award predictions
Palme d’Or Decision to Leave
Grand Prix Close
Jury prize Pacifiction
Best director Saeed Roustayi (Leila’s Brothers)
Best screenplay Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix van Groeningen (Le Otto Montagne)
Best actor Pierfrancesco Favino (Nostalgia)
Best actress Tang Wei (Decision to Leave)
“Cannes Braddies” for categories that don’t exist
Best supporting actor Ahmed Sylla (Mother and Son)
Best supporting actress Kristen Stewart (Crimes of the Future)
Best cinematography Artur Tort (Pacifiction)
Best production design Josefin Åsberg for Triangle of Sadness