Well, here’s how: by awarding the Palme d’Or, the most prestigious award on the film festival circuit, to a three-hour drama about young French lesbians that features some of the most roastingly explicit scenes of real sex in the history of (non-pornographic) cinema.
Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour is an impeccable choice for the Palme: as I wrote in my five-star rave earlier this week, it is an extraordinary, prolonged popping-candy explosion of pleasure, sadness, anger, lust and hope. The plot of Kechiche’s film is nothing you haven’t seen before on a primetime soap opera – two young people meet, fall in love, move in together, drift apart – but it is performed and captured with such skin-tingling intimacy that you feel you are somehow also a part of that relationship.
The sex scenes have proved to be a major talking point; particularly one 15-minute extravaganza that occurs roughly halfway through the picture. Kechiche’s camerawork is entirely unfussy, and yet it operates almost like one of those abstracted dance interludes in films like An American In Paris and A Star Is Born; an ecstatic celebration of the way human bodies can move, interact and interlock.
So a great film triumphed on the night. But it gets better still: by handing the prize jointly to Kechiche and also his two lead actresses, Adèle Exarchopolous and Léa Seydoux, Spielberg and his fellow jurors have tripled the number of female Palme d’Or winners at a stroke. Exarchopolous and Seydoux now stand alongside Jane Campion, who was a (joint) Palme winner in 1993, for The Piano.
The jury’s other selections were also enormously satisfying. The Grand Prix, effectively Cannes’ runner-up medal, went to Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers’ hymn to squandered potential. This feels like an obvious choice, but only because the film was so overwhelmingly well received: my five-star rave was one of many to appear after it screened last Sunday night.
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