‘The Square’ Wins Top Prize at Cannes; Sofia Coppola Is Best Director


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Sofia Coppola, director of the remake “The Beguiled.”

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Julien Warnand/European Pressphoto Agency

CANNES, France — The movie “The Square” — a slick, diverting social commentary from Sweden that delivers a spanking to the bourgeoisie — was the surprise winner of the 70th Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Ruben Ostlund, the movie had not been a critical favorite, but critics do not bestow the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest award. That job is left to the main-selection jury, which this year included five directors — two of them women — and was headed by Pedro Almodóvar.

Sofia Coppola became the second woman in the festival’s history to win best director at this auteurist temple. She won for “The Beguiled,” a remake of a Southern gothic, starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman and set during the Civil War. Onstage in the Lumière Theater, where the awards ceremony took place, the director Maren Ade, a juror, accepted the prize for an absent Ms. Coppola, who thanked her parents as well as the director Jane Campion for being “a role model and supporting women filmmakers.” (Ms. Campion shared the Palme in 1993 for her film “The Piano.”)

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Elisabeth Moss in Ruben Ostlund’s “The Square,” which won the top prize at Cannes.

Credit
via Cannes Film Festival

The awards capped what had been an often disappointing festival characterized by a fairly weak feature-film competition, misfires from venerated auteurs and rumors that some movies had been rushed into the festival before they had been fully edited. (The overlong running times of some titles certainly suggested as much.) For the most part, the titles in the main competition steered away from overtly commenting on current affairs. The outside world was nevertheless made palpably present by the increased security in and around festival headquarters.

Festival organizers nevertheless put on a good show with the usual glamour, nostalgia and a musical number from the French performer Benjamin Biolay, who brought an accordionist with him. Mr. Almodóvar provided more vivid entertainment, rattling off winners promptly. Robin Campillo’s “120 Beats Per Minute,” a French film about AIDS activists in the 1990s, won the grand prize (effectively second place). The Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev won the jury prize for “Loveless.” The screenwriting award went to both Yorgos Lanthimos, from Greece, for “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” and the British filmmaker Lynne Ramsay for “You Were Never Really Here.”

“We were finishing the movie last week,” Ms. Ramsay said, thanking her star Joaquin Phoenix, who had walked the red carpet that night as Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” blared from loudspeakers. Mr. Joaquin also won the best actor prize for “You Were Never Really Here” and looked genuinely surprised when it was announced that he had won. “I’m sorry I don’t speak French,” Mr. Phoenix said as he accepted his prize. He added, looking down at his sneakers (footwear usually a no-no on the red carpet), “As you can see from my shoes, I don’t wear leather.”

Diane Kruger, the star of Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade,” won best actress for her performance in that film as a grieving, then vengeful German widow whose marriage to a German-Turk finds her battling homegrown neo-Nazis. Speaking in English, Ms. Kruger said that she was “overcome with emotion” and thanked “Fatih, my brother.” The German-born son of Turkish immigrants, Mr. Akin beamed wildly from his seat in the audience. Ms. Kruger then closed her short, emotional speech by invoking real victims of terrorism: “Please know that you’re not forgotten.”

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