Cannes Film Festival highlights: Laughter, tears and monkey business

With the prizes given out, the bags packed and the hangovers kicking in, the 70th Cannes Film Festival has drawn to a close.

This year’s top prize went to surprise winner The Square, a Swedish film about the sometimes bonkers art world and how we can best help others.

Cannes has seen dozens of film premieres and parties, and red carpet appearances from the likes of Rihanna, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner.

Here are some of the highlights and talking points from the past 12 days.


It can get emotional

The lack of sleep, the pressure, the importance of the occasion – who can blame festivalgoers for showing a bit of emotion?

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during the press conference for Wonderstruck when the child actors said how much they’d learned from their adult co-stars – and vice versa. There may have been a few tears wiped away during the film’s premiere itself too.

Then there was the reaction to Dustin Hoffman‘s performance in Noah Baumbach‘s The Meyerowitz Stories, which left both the actor and director weeping – and a fair proportion of the audience too. Some are tipping Hoffman for Oscars success for the role as a cantankerous patriarch at the centre of a dysfunctional New York family.

Kirsten Dunst burst into tears on the red carpet for the premiere of The Beguiled – but the smiling reaction of director Sofia Coppola and Elle Fanning, who also appears in the Civil War-era drama, shows they were tears of happiness.


There was laughter as well as tears

Will Smith provided the laughs at the jury press conference on the opening day of Cannes, heckling the audience, whooping with delight and even making a Fresh Prince of Bel Air reference.

Then Emma Thompson was also in a great mood when promoting The Meyerowitz Stories – and was later seen laughing and dancing, high heels in her hand, at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association party for the International Rescue Committee.

And director Yorgos Lanthimos told the cast of his dark, intense thriller The Killing of the Sacred Deer it was a comedy. But Colin Farrell laughed at this suggestion, saying Lanthimos, the man behind surreal romantic drama The Lobster, is “messed up”.


And now for the unofficial awards…

  • Most shocking scene: When performance art being staged for paying guests’ entertainment at a gala dinner pushes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in The Square, as a man playing an ape makes things at first awkward and then horrifying
  • Most incongruous use of a song in a film: When the strains of Annie’s Song are heard as a giant pig runs amok in a shopping centre in Okja, all you can do is laugh
  • Best/most creepy use of social media: The opening scenes to Michael Haneke’s Happy End, in which an unseen character documents a woman’s bedtime routine on a mobile phone – and later in the film, when the same phone records the demise of a hamster
  • Most honest confession: Ben Stiller admitting he didn’t know how to pronounce The Meyerowitz Stories either
  • Most unlikely collaboration: Elisabeth Moss and Gwendoline Christie joking as they chatted before an interview that they’d like to develop a shoe range – and then they insisted holding hands throughout
  • The ‘It Should Have Won The Palme d’Or’ prize: A tie between The Florida Project, starring Willem Dafoe, and Wind River, with Jeremy Renner and Elisabeth Olsen, both of which had critics scratching their heads as to why they weren’t in the official competition

People will do anything to get into screenings

Film fans, sometimes in tuxedos, holding signs asking for tickets for the day’s films is a common sight along the Croisette, Cannes’ main boulevard.

Some got lucky – if someone had a spare ticket, it was preferable to give it away rather than get black-marked for the invitation not being taken up. Bonus points for those who at least made an effort with their appearance or made an amusing sign.


It’s a 24-7 festival

Starting queuing for an 8.30am screening at 7.30am, not coming out of a 10pm screening until half past midnight… and then there are the beachfront parties that make partying seem like an Olympic sport, with one festivalgoer boasting she was planning to go to eight in one night.

Caffeine does count as a food group, right?


Read more from Cannes:


Some of the most popular things screened weren’t films

The presence of virtual reality is getting bigger and bigger each year. The most high-profile example this year was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s installation Carne y Arena, a 20-minute shuttle ride away that required viewers to go into a hangar one by one.

And Eric Darnell, who co-wrote and co-directed Madagascar, brought his latest project Rainbow Crow – starring the voice of John Legend – to the festival.

The spotlight also turned to television, with new series of Top of the Lake and Twin Peaks debuting at the festival, which usually only celebrates the big screen. Some even said Jane Campion‘s crime drama Top of the Lake, which was shown in its six-hour entirety, was one of their festival highlights.


Film-makers love books

Six of the 19 films in competition at Cannes were taken from books – ranging from Wonderstruck, based on Brian Selznick’s half-illustrated young adult fiction book of the same name, to Joyce Carol Oates’ Double Delight, which was turned into steamy L’amant Double.


Cannes audiences are vocal

You have to feel for the film-makers bringing their babies, months and years in the making, into the merciless arena of Cannes. If an audience at Cannes likes something, they want you to know about it. And if they don’t, there’s no way you can escape their displeasure.

We had boos during opening credits – for the Amazon logo at the beginning of Wonderstruck, and more loudly, for the Netflix logo ahead of its two films in competition.

But applause greeted many of the other films, and Robert Pattinson was lucky enough to get a six-minute standing ovation at the end of the premiere for Good Time.


Solidarity with Manchester

Terrorism was a shadow lingering over the festival well before news of the Manchester attack made its way to the festival, with heightened security involving scans, multiple ID checks and bag searches. This is near Nice after all, the site of the lorry attack last year.

The attack that left 22 dead after an Ariana Grande concert meant there was a sombre atmosphere across the Cannes site. There was also a sense of solidarity, with foreign journalists giving heartfelt sympathies and people from around the world joining in a minute’s silence. The red carpet, the scene of flashbulbs and photographers’ shouts, was still as the Cannes president and French actress Isabelle Huppert were among those who took to the steps of the Palais – the hub of the festival – in a show of sympathy.

The festival said it was an attack “on culture, youth and joyfulness, on our freedom, generosity and tolerance, all things that the festival and those who make it possible – the artists, professionals and spectators – hold dear”.

And in a nod to the work of those protecting the festival, this year’s Palme Dog award – the tongue-in-cheek prize given to the best dog at the festival – went to three security dogs, to represent the sniffer dogs around the world saving lives every day.


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