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Cannes 2021: 5 Previous Palme d’Or Winners to see



Want to start a fight? Ask a group of film fans to discuss which movie deserved its Best Picture Oscar.

Oof! Verbal and maybe even physical fisticuffs will follow!

I, for one, will die on The Artist hill. I loved that whimsical, dreamy, black and white homage to the films of the silent era, the first time I saw it at the London Film Festival. I still remember the screening. It was a Saturday morning in October. Leicester Square. The media attending watched it silently. Then, after that magnificent tap dance and the two words spoken at the end by Jean Dujardin, we rose and gave it a standing ovation. It went on to win many big awards, including the Oscar. But in that journey, it also picked up a lot of detractors. Now, it’s often cited as one of the more controversial winners.

The film didn’t begin life in London though. Its triumphant journey began at the Cannes Film Festival, the home of the Palme d’Or. For many filmmakers, the ultimate accolade is not the best picture Oscar but the Palme d’Or from the Cannes jury.

The award is given out at the final weekend of the festival, usually held in May, but this year being held in July. It was initially known as the Grand Prix but has been known as the Palme d’Or since 1955. It has its own prestige and is a huge notch on the belt of any filmmaker. The Artist didn’t win the top award but Dujardin won Best Actor on his way to the Bafta and Oscar and Uggie, the dog in the film, even picked up the Palme Dog award, a sideline spin-off.

Here are 5 Palme d’Or winners I recommend:

Taxi Driver (1976)
Long before the Oscars recognised Martin Scorsese, the Cannes Film Festival gave him their top prize for this astonishing character study of a psychopath. Scorsese looked at Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro)through the cool lens of no judgement. He simply offered up a portrait of the violence and madness within a man living in his own nightmarish vision of New York and Cannes recognised the achievement.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Cannes has also been good to Quentin Tarantino. It’s not surprising he chooses to premiere his films at the festival. Pulp Fiction followed Reservoir Dogs’ earlier success at Cannes by taking home the coveted top award. With its iconic imagery and much-copied dance scene, quotable dialogue and cinematic references, the film was rightly seen as a trailblazer and remains a critic and film fan favourite decades later.

The Class (2008)
Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Francois Begaudeau, this French film by Laurent Cantent blew me away when I first saw it. Set in a classroom over the course of a year, it is a riveting slice of contemporary social, ethnic, educational life in the suburbs of Paris.

Secrets and Lies (1996)
Mike Leigh is another director who is highly regarded at the festival. This low-key family drama about an adopted black girl who sets out to find her birth parents took Marianne Jean Baptiste all the way to the Oscars as a Best-Supporting actress nominee (the first black British actress to do so). Brenda Blethyn as her newfound mother is also simply superb.

The Piano (1993)
This was another winner that took its director and cast to Oscar nominations and victory. Jane Campion directed Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin to awards glory as a mute, unhappy mother who finds love outside her marriage and her quiet, observant daughter.

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