CANNES, FRANCE: Swedish satire “The Square,” a send-up of political correctness and the confused identity of the modern male, won the Palme d’Or top prize at the Cannes film festival Sunday.
In a stunning upset, the nine-member jury led by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and including Hollywood stars Jessica Chastain and Will Smith awarded the trophy to director Ruben Ostlund.
“Oh my God, oh my God!” Ostlund shouted from the stage after besting a raft of favorites for one of global cinema’s most coveted honors with a rare comedy. It was the first-ever Swedish winner.
In a 70th edition marked by raging debate over sexism in the movie industry, Sofia Coppola became only the second woman in history to win Best Director for her battle-of-the-sexes drama “The Beguiled” with Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell.
Kidman, who appeared in four different projects at the French Riviera festival, accepted a special anniversary award with a video message.
Three-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix nabbed Best Actor for his turn as a hammer-wielding hitman in “You Were Never Really Here.”
“Any work that I did was linked to the work of Lynne Ramsay,” the film’s British director, Phoenix said, before apologising for his tuxedo-and-trainers look at the gala ceremony.
“I don’t wear leather,” the committed vegetarian explained.
Diane Kruger clinched Best Actress for her first film role in her native German as a devastated mother who has lost her husband and son in a neo-Nazi terror attack, in Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade.”
“I cannot accept this award without thinking of everyone who has been touched by an act of terrorism … you have not been forgotten,” said a visibly moved Kruger.
Chastain called it “disturbing” that there had not been more meaty female roles among the 19 contenders for the Palme d’Or. Only three of the films were made by women.
The runner-up Grand Prix went to the hotly tipped French drama “120 Beats Per Minute” about the radical activists who helped shame the world into action on AIDS.
“Loveless” by Andrey Zvyagintsev, a wrenching drama about moral rot gnawing at Russian society under Vladimir Putin, took the third place jury prize.
Almodovar hailed the movie’s themes as “completely contemporary.”
“Such a serious subject is treated with such incredible imagination—it’s very funny,” he said.
Ostlund defended the film’s length at two hours and 20 minutes, saying that it was shorter than some “Harry Potter” sequels.
“If we want to make cinema walk tall again we have to put more complex questions into cinema,” he said.