CANNES - With screenings having wrapped here at the Cannes Film Festival, all eyes are on tomorrow's big awards. I'll preview those in the morning, but in the meantime, we received the first Competition bellwether in the form of the FIPRESCI Critics' prize, which went to Abdellatif Kechiche's three-hour lesbian romantic drama "Blue is the Warmest Color" -- currently the bookies' favorite for the Palme d'Or.

I haven't yet had a chance to discuss Kechiche's film here, though it's perhaps my favorite in the Competition lineup. (If you're curious, you can read my review of the film for Time Out here.) I'd be thrilled to see Kechiche repeat this victory tomorrow night, though before we get too excited, it's worth noting that the Cannes jury disagrees with FIPRESCI more often than not. The last time they overlapped was in 2009, when Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" took FIPRESCI and the Palme d'Or; last year, however, FIPRESCI's choice, Sergei Loznitsa's "In the Fog" won nothing from Nanni Moretti's Competition jury.

FIPRESCI certainly disagreed with Thomas Vinterberg's jury in the Un Certain Regard section. While the critics opted for politically charged Iranian thriller "Manuscripts Don't Burn" as the sidebar's best, the jury handed prizes to five other films -- with their top award going to Cambodian director Rithy Panh's "The Missing Picture," an autobiographical Khmer Rouge story told in mixed-media format using clay puppets. Their runner-up prize, meanwhile, went to the well-received "Omar" by Dutch-Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, who made the Oscar-nominated "Paradise Now" in 2005.

Typically, I missed both films, though I was pleased to see Frenchman Alain Guiraudie pick up a directing prize for his smart, sexually explicit thriller "Stranger by the Lake" -- still one of the sidebar's biggest talking points. Elsewhere tonight, Guiraudie also nabbed the Queer Palme award for the best LGBT-themed film of the festival -- no mean feat in a lineup that included Competition heavyweights "Blue is the Warmest Color" and "Behind the Candelabra."

Similarly well-judged was an award for the young ensemble of the excellent Mexican border-crossing drama "La Jaula de Oro," which I will discuss at a later stage. I'm less convinced that Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner "Fruitvale Station," which played to a rather muted response here in Cannes, merits further honors, but it picked up the Future Award for debut director Ryan Coogler. (He's also among the apparent frontrunners for tomorrow's Camera d'Or.)  

Finally, in further independent jury news, the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury -- a Christian body set up in 1974 to reward films that "reveal the mysterious depths of human beings" -- went to another film that could well scoop the Palme tomorrow, Asghar Farhadi's "The Past."

Click on the next page for a longer list of preliminary awards. 

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