The Square wins top prize at Cannes

Diane Kruger wins the Best Actress award for her role as a vengeful German widow who battles neo-Nazis in Fatih Akin's In The Fade.
Diane Kruger wins the Best Actress award for her role as a vengeful German widow who battles neo-Nazis in Fatih Akin's In The Fade.PHOTO: REUTERS
Ruben Ostlund.
Ruben Ostlund.PHOTO: REUTERS

CANNES •The Swedish movie The Square - a slick, diverting art- gallery satire and social commentary - was the surprise winner of the Cannes Film Festival's highest award, the Palme d'Or, on Sunday.

Directed by Ruben Ostlund, the 142-minute movie had not been a critical favourite and some said it took too long to get to its point.

Its highlight is a dinner for a museum's well-to-do patrons, with a performance artist leaping from table to table, impersonating an ape in a bizarre, tense and ultimately violent scene.

Film-maker Pedro Almodovar, who headed the jury of nine that included actors Will Smith, Jessica Chastain and Fan Bingbing, 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.

Sofia Coppola became the second woman in the festival's history to win Best Director. She won for The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971 Southern gothic, starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman and set during the Civil War.

Robin Campillo's 120 Beats Per Minute, a French film about Aids activists in the 1990s, had been a favourite for the Palme d'Or, but had to settle for the Grand Prize (effectively second place), something Almodovar seemed to regret.

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

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev won the Jury Prize for Loveless, the story of a couple on the point of divorce when their son goes missing.

The screenwriting award went to both Greek film-maker Yorgos Lanthimos for The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and British director Lynne Ramsay for You Were Never Really Here.

"We were finishing the movie last week," Ramsay said, thanking her star Joaquin Phoenix, who also won Best Actor for his portrayal of a psychologically damaged hitman.

"I'm sorry I don't speak French," he said, seeming genuinely surprised at his win. Looking down at his sneakers, which are usually a no-no on the red carpet, the vegetarian explained: "As you can see from my shoes, I don't wear leather."

Diane Kruger won Best Actress for her performance in Fatih Akin's In The Fade, as a vengeful German widow who battles neo-Nazis after her German-Turk husband and son are killed in a bomb attack. It is her first role in her native German.

She gave a short, emotional speech, invoking real victims of terrorism. "Please know that you're not forgotten," she said.

Kidman, who also stars alongside Farrell in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, was awarded a special prize, the jury's 70th Anniversary Award.

The awards capped what had been an often disappointing festival, characterised by a fairly weak film competition and rumours that some movies had been rushed into the event before they had been fully edited.

Video-streaming company Netflix, which had two acclaimed movies in competition - Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories - left empty-handed.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2017, with the headline 'The Square wins top prize at Cannes'. Print Edition | Subscribe