The highest honor one can receive for a submission to the Cannes Film Festival is the Palme d’Or, or “Golden Palm” in English. This has been the highest award given at the festival since 1974 when it replaced the Grand Prix du Festival, which itself had replaced the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film in 1964. Because the festival in one form or another dates back to 1939, many of us wouldn’t recognize a number of films that won. Naturally, a film’s popularity is directly linked to the country where it was produced. Here are just a few of the winners of the Palme d’Or.
In 1976, the film Taxi Driver won the award. It was directed by Martin Scorsese, while an obviously young Robert De Niro played one of the leading roles. The movie was heralded as an instant hit by critics, who found its relevance to the time period superbly compelling. It was extremely psychological and followed a taxi driver who had been honorably discharged following the Vietnam War. Some herald the movie as the best of all time.
Pulp Fiction won the award in 1994. Directed and co-written by the now famous Quentin Tarantino, it is known for its convoluted plot and lengthy dialog-heavy scenes that touch on a hefty number of dark and taboo subjects. Although it makes the list as one of the best movies for these reasons and more, there are others who hate it for the same reasons others love it. Its all-star cast didn’t hurt the showing, but that wasn’t what propelled it to the top.
In 2002, the French film The Pianist took the award home (or kept it there, rather). This foreign film won a number of Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Actor. The story begins in September of 1939 when a Warsaw radio station is bombed by the Germans during the Poland blitzkrieg. A Jewish pianist who was present at the time is forced on the run, and the story takes off from there. It was well-praised at the time of release because of its representation of the era, acting, and music.
In 2009, The White Ribbon won, and then in 2012 Amour won. They were both directed by the Austrian Michael Haneke, now 75 years of age. He is the only Austrian director to have won the award twice, and one of only a handful to do it since the birth of the festival. He has directed and written a number of movies that have won countless awards, and many of his films follow the outcasts in society or those who most would sooner forget. In telling their stories he often relates to viewers on a universal level.
The Danish film Dancer in the Dark won in 2000, and was directed by Lars von Trier. The movie follows Björk (who also composed the majority of the film’s music), a struggling immigrant with an eye condition whose son has the same. Although the film was primarily Danish, it was more of a collaboration between a number of other countries including France, Germany, Iceland, the United States, and others.