Cannes 2019: “Parasite”, explosive Palme d’Or of a political prize list

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A hard-hitting social farce with a “class struggle” tendency, “Parasite” by South Korean Bong Joon-ho received the supreme distinction of a prize list with strong political content. The prize for male interpretation went to Antonio Banderas.

The 72nd Cannes film festival promised to be romantic and political, it is a prize list more political than romantic that the jury chaired by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu unveiled on Saturday, May 25. By awarding, “unanimously”, the Palme d’Or 2019 to “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho, the nine jurors rewarded a crazy film, an incredible social farce trend “class struggle” on a family of stockings -funds interfering in the daily life of a family in the beautiful districts of Seoul. Like a wild and azimuth version of “A family affair”, last year’s Palme.

After paying tribute to French cinema, and more particularly to directors Henri-Georges Clouzot and Claude Chabrol, the award-winning said he was surprised “to be able to touch [s]his own hands the Palme d’Or “. His coronation is not, however, a great surprise: since its screening four days ago,” Parasite “has been a favorite for the international press. Nice revenge, in any case, for Bong Joon-ho, whose coming to Cannes, two years ago, with a film produced by “Netflix” had aroused a lively controversy.

“The best is yet to come” for Antonio Banderas

Another great critic’s darling, Pedro Almodovar’s beautiful autobiographical tale, “Pain and Glory”, leaves with a deserved interpretation prize for its main actor, Antonio Banderas. The actor is indeed sublime, moving, magnificent. We can bet that this distinction gives him the opportunity to reconnect with a great role. “The best is yet to come,” he promised from the podium before dedicating his award to Pedro Almodovar, his “mentor”.

More surprisingly, as it came out of nowhere, the prize for female interpretation was given to the Briton Emily Beecham for her role as a plant breeder in the disappointing fantastic tale “Little Joe” by Jessica Hausner. We could have expected Virginie Efira (“Sibyl”) or the beautiful duo formed by Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant in “Portrait of a young girl on fire”, but the jury decided otherwise.

What festival-goers also did not see coming was the award of the Grand Prix, a sort of silver medal in the competition, to “Atlantique”, the first film by Franco-Senegalese Mati Diop. Distinction with political accents there also for this film which tells the immigration of the Dakar youth from the point of view of those, or rather those, who remain. Far from being perfect, this modern tale bears witness to a certain aesthetic ambition on the part of its author, who could not have dreamed of better encouragement to pursue this path of the political and the strange. In any case, it is the first time that an African director has been distinguished at Cannes.


Politics is also the double Jury Prize awarded to the shocking film “Les Misérables” by French director Ladj Ly and to the futuristic western “Bacurau” by Brazilians Juliano Dorneles and Kleber Mendonça Filho. Both are films showing a damning inventory of their country. The first is an abrupt chronicle of police violence in the sensitive areas of poverty-stricken Seine-Saint-Denis, the second a strong denunciation of the carelessness of a Brazilian state more concerned with private than collective interests. Sharp.

The most romantic film on the prize list, “Portrait of the young girl on fire” receives the prize for the screenplay. Sensual romance between a painter and her model, the feature film by French director Céline Sciamma could have left with a more prestigious award. Too bad.

We understand less well that the price of the staging went to the Belgians Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (already twice webbed) for “Le Jeune Ahmed”. Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”) and the Chinese Diao Yinan (“The Lake of the Wild Geese”), which are pure cinema work, would have made more convincing winners.

But we know, there is no price for everyone. The jury, however, found a little parade by offering a special mention to Palestinian Elia Suleiman, director of “It Must Be Heaven”, a burlesque chronicle of an exile. Political, definitely political.

The complete list of the 72e Cannes film festival :

Palme d’Or: “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho

Grand Prize: “Atlantique” by Mati Diop

Best Actor Award: Antonio Banderas in “Pain and Glory”

Best Actress Award: Emily Beecham in “Little Joe”

Jury Prize: “Les Misérables” by Ladj Ly and “Bacurau” by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles

Best Director Award: “Le Jeune Ahmed” by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Best Screenplay Award: “Portrait of the Girl on Fire” by Céline Sciamma

Special mention from the jury: “It Must Be Heaven” by Elia Suleiman

Golden Camera: “Nuestras madres” by Cesar Diaz

Palme d’Or for the short film: “The distance between the sky and us” by Vasilis Kekatos

Special mention for the short film: “Monstruo Dios” by Agustina San Martín

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Cannes 2019: “Parasite”, explosive Palme d’Or of a political prize list

Hank Gilbert