Cannes 2023: Where the Palme dOr Race Stands

The Cannes Film Festival has had its fair share of impressive movie premieres this year, with audiences embracing new films from the likes of Jonathan Glazer, Todd Haynes and and Hirokazu Kore-eda. But even the most sustained standing ovation doesn’t guarantee that a movie will walk away with the Palme d’Or, Cannes’ highest honor.

It all depends on the vagaries of the jury’s taste, and this one is headed up by Ruben Östlund, a two time Palme d’Or winner for “Triangle of Sadness” and “The Square.” And it’s not just Östlund’s decision to make. The ultimate victor will come down to the personal opinions of jury members Maryam Touzani, Denis Ménochet, Rungano Nyoni, Brie Larson, Paul Dano, Atiq Rahimi, Damián Szifrón and Julia Ducournau.

It’s impossible to gauge what films and performances will speak to them and their cinematic sensibilities. But, based on the reception to the films in competition, as well as conversations with attendees and industry professionals, we can guess which moviemakers may end the week basking in victory.

Cannes policy prevents the winner of the Palme d’Or from capturing any other additional prize. So getting the exact breakdown of things can be tricky. Also, not every movie has been screened as of May 22, so this list could change as we get closer to the end of the festival.

There are some out of competition titles, such as Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” or Un Certain Regard films such as “The Delinquents” by Rodrigo Moreno and “The Breaking Ice” by Anthony Chen, that have generated a lot of heat. While they’re not eligible for any main competition prizes, keep an eye on them throughout the season.

Palme d’Or (Golden Palm), Grand Prix (Grand Prize of the Festival), Prix du Jury (Jury Prize)

There are 21 films in competition, and while all hope to walk away with the Golden Palm, there are two other places where the jury can reward bold filmmaking – Grand Prix and the Jury Prize – both considered the runner-up spots of the ceremony.

The track record for Palme d’Or winners moving onto Oscar success has varied over the years. Over the past two decades, Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” (2002), Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011), Michael Haneke’s “Amour” (2012), Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” (2019) and Östlund’s “Triangle of Sadness” have received best picture nominations. However, “Parasite” is one of only two Cannes winners that have matched the Academy’s choice, with the other being “Marty” (1955).

Only nine filmmakers including Östlund have won the coveted top festival prize more than once. Director Ken Loach is also among those elite nine (2006’s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and 2016’s “I, Daniel Blake”). His new film, “The Old Oak,” is in competition, but it doesn’t screen until the festival’s last day. So it will have to pack a punch for the auteur to make history.

The other former winners are Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Monster”) and Wim Wenders (“Perfect Days”). Kore-eda’s film was well-received and could be a dark horse waiting in the wings.

At the moment, based solely on buzz and gut-checks, this seems down to Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” and Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest” with a possibility of Todd Haynes’ “May December” nabbing the prize if the jury is okay not choosing one of its stars – Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman — for an acting prize. Both “Anatomy” and “Zone” star Sandra Hüller, who’s received raves for both, could factor into their deliberations if they want to give her a moment on the stage, preventing one of her movies from taking the top award. That could bode well for “May December.”

We are still waiting to see how Wes Anderson’s newest flick will be received, and the early word is positive for the comedy.

Prix de la mise en scene (best director)

Past winners for directing have included Park Chan-wook (“Decision to Leave”), Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) and Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”), who were all tapped as the favorites to win the top prize during their respective years.

I’m guessing whatever filmmaker directed the runner-up for the Palme d’Or will take home this recognition. However, the bold vision of Glazer’s “Zone of Interest,” which might be his masterpiece, could be too good to pass up. It’s also a movie that has the best shot, at the moment, of translating to Academy attention, at least from the competition films (Out of competition, “Killers of the Flower Moon” feels like a definite player).

Prix d’interprétation masculine (best actor)

There aren’t many obvious choices among the leading men at the fest.

There’s early word that Josh O’Connor is impressive in “La Chimera,” so we’re keeping an eye on what he brings to the mix. There’s also Tye Sheridan, the best part of the dark and gritty “Black Flies,” who could win big for his work as an EMT in New York.

In the past, Cannes has rewarded big stars such as Antonio Banderas for “Pain and Glory” and Joaquin Phoenix for “You Were Never Really Here,” both of whom earned acting prizes. That could bode well for someone like Jude Law, who plays a paranoid Henry VIII in “Firebrand.”

Prix d’interprétation feminine (best actress)

Recent best actress winners at Cannes have been breakout performers such as Zar Amir Ebrahimi (“Holy Spider”), Renate Reinsve (“The Worst Person in the World”) and Emily Beecham (“Little Joe”). However, occasionally, a major star delivers a performance so searing that they can’t be denied. That seems to be the case with the “May December” duo of Moore and Portman.

Both could be rewarded, which would mimic 2006’s “Volver” team of actresses who were all given the prize. In 2013, the jury awarded the Palme d’Or for “Blue is the Warmest Colour” to the director and its leading women — Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. So both “May December” women could benefit, but I would expect Portman to be named best actress if only one person can take the statue.

If they somehow cancel each other out, Hüller is on fire at the fest with two films, and “Club Zero” could have something to offer with Mia Wasikowska.

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