My Top 10 Favorite Grand Prix Winners at Cannes

So, I decided to write this series of lists based on various awards. You know, right as the actual awards season is over and forgotten. For some reason, I decided to start with this.

Admittedly, I’ve never really quite understood the different prizes at Cannes, but I know this much: this is considered the second highest, just behind Palme d’Or (which I’ll make a separate list on). I was mistaken about this for a long time, as to me Grand Prix just sounds grander than Palme d’Or. I mean, even with my very limited French largely based on Magic cards and menus, I know Grand Prix means something along the lines of big prize and Palme d’Or means Golden Palm. The former sounds like something to work towards, while the latter sounds like an in-joke. On the other hand, Palme d’Or is the original and while there were attempts to use Grand Prix instead, that didn’t stick, so here we are.

Anyhow, here’s my favorite Grand Prix winners in chronological order. Admittedly, these skew somewhat to newer movies, because I just haven’t seen as many of the older ones.

Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto or Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Elio Petri, 1970)

This is an interesting idea, which has been executed in a way that works. It’s about a detective, who kills a woman to test the department. He manipulates the investigation, but it never just goes the way he wants it to. I like the weird moral grey area here. Are we supposed to be on his side despite his cruel and meaningless crime?

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (Terry Jones, 1983)

While some of the members have been doing some very problematic shit as of late, this is a very good movie. In some ways it’s a total mess, but on the other, that’s kind of the point. Flying Circus was about trying to break the rules of sketch comedy, so this in many ways is just trying to do that in a movie form.

Offret or The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986)

Tarkovsky’s last movie. I’m not sure about the timeline, but he might very well have been dead by the time this movie came out. It’s about this intellectual, who is trying to figure out how to bargain with god about avoiding nuclear war. The original name is in Swedish, because this was a Swedish movie, as Tarkovsky had left Soviet Union in the late 70s. Since that is an old Norse word, it has pagan roots and as such the movie does have pagan themes.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)

A long time favorite of mine. It largely takes part in a cinema, but it’s also more about the concept of cinema in general. Many things in the life of the main character is mimicking movies. His love interest is described purely based on her beauty, because that’s the way women have been seen in movies for a very long time. She isn’t allowed a personality. I also just put this movie on my list of best endings as well.

Oldeuboi or Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)

The middle part of a trilogy, but since each part of the trilogy works as a singular piece of art, you don’t need to see the other two, but they are great as well. The most memorable scene in the movie is a brutal one-take fight in a corridor, but the movie is much more than that. The other two movies in the trilogy are much clearer on the revenge, but this gets complicated.

Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da or Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)

I haven’t seen many Turkish movies, but maybe I should… I mean, this is a quite slow moving film (weird thing to say after a Tarkovsky film and this isn’t really slow cinema, just slow), but it works. It’s about officials trying to find a body during the night with only a vague description from the suspected killer. They drive around and just learn about each other as they talk trying to kill the boredom.

Saul fia or Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)

A man in a concentration camp tries to bury his dead son. This is kind of a tough movie. Most of the movie is shot in a way that we see the man in a closeup most of the time. Everything is chaotic and death looms everywhere. We also know Saul is actually a Sonderkommando, meaning he is basically a traitor, as he is part of the units made up of prisoners Germans used to run things for them.

BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018)

A story of a black man impersonating a white man in order to infiltrate the KKK. He isn’t actually going to events, as that is handled by someone else, but it is always nice to laugh at right-wingers.

Hytti nro 6 or Compartment no. 6 (Juho Kuosmanen, 2021)

Ah, a Finnish movie. There truly is a renaissance here. It’s also noteworthy, that Russian Culture Fund put money into this project that has a bi main character. Laura is a Finnish student in Russia, who is travelling north on a train to see ancient cave paintings (I think, I forget the details on this). On her way, she meets Lyokha, a Russian man. They don’t really see eye to eye early on, but a lot can happen during that kind of a trip.

The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023)

This just won the Oscar for Best International Film as well, with a very non-controversial speech by Glazer, which has seen a lot of controversy. As it so often happens. This is not a real narrative movie. We just see the life of the family of the man who runs Auschwitz. The camp is never seen, only heard as ambient noise behind a wall.

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