29 May 2017

Art gallery satire The Square wins Palme d'Or at Cannes

12:51 pm on 29 May 2017

Art gallery satire The Square, about the curator of a museum filled with grotesquely pretentious conceptual art, has won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The highlight of the film, by Swedish writer-director Ruben Ostlund, is a dinner for the museum's well-to-do patrons, with a performance artist leaping from table impersonating an ape in a bizarre, tense and ultimately violent scene.

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund with the Palme d'Or for his film The Square, a satire on the art world.

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund with the Palme d'Or for his film The Square, a satire on the art world. Photo: AFP

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who headed the jury of nine people that included Hollywood stars Will Smith and Jessica Chastain, said the film was about "the dictatorship of being politically correct".

"Such a serious subject is treated with an incredible imagination. It is very, very, very funny," he said.

"BPM (Beats Per Minute)", a French movie about AIDS awareness campaigners in the 1980s, had been favourite for the award but had to settle for second place, taking the Grand Prize of the Jury, something Almodovar seemed to regret.

"This is a very democratic jury and I am the ninth part of this jury," he said and fought back tears as he talked of the film's portrayal of "real heroes that saved many lives".

Sofia Coppola won best director for The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood tale of sexual tension between an injured soldier in the American Civil War and the women and girls who take him in.

She was the second woman to win the prize after Soviet director Yuliya Solntseva in 1961.

Though Coppola and British director Lynne Ramsay were represented in the prizes, jurors lamented the lack of female story-tellers.

Juror Jessica Chastain said she was shocked at the way many of the films she saw at Cannes portrayed women.

Chastain, star of The Help said it was "disturbing" to see the way women were depicted on screen. "The one thing I really took away from this experience was how the world views women. There are some exceptions, but for the most part I was surprised with the representation of female characters on the screen in these films.

"I hope when we include more female story-tellers we will have more of the women that I recognise in my day-to-day life, ones that are proactive, have their own agency and don't just react to the men around them - they have their own point of view."

Toni Erdmann director Maren Ade, who also sat on the jury, agreed more female directors were needed, adding: "We're missing a lot of stories they might tell."

Nicole Kidman, who starred alongside Colin Farrell in The Beguiled and The Killing of a Sacred Deer missed out on the best actress trophy but was awarded a special prize, collecting the jury's 70th Anniversary Award.

Best actress went to Diane Kruger for her performance in German film In the Fade, playing a woman trying to put her life back together after her husband and young son are killed in a bomb attack. It was her first role in her native German.

Joaquin Phoenix was named best actor for his portrayal of a psychologically damaged hitman in You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay, who shared the prize for best screenplay with the writers of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou.

Video-streaming company Netflix, which had two acclaimed movies in competition, left empty handed. It's lack of success should have come as no surprise, given that Almodovar said at the start of the festival that the Palme d'Or should not go a movie that would not be given a theatrical release.

- BBC / Reuters