May 23, 2015 3:11 PM
Palme d'Or up for grabs ahead of Cannes Film Festival finale
The Associated Press
CANNES, France (AP) A week and a half of French Riviera frenzy comes down to, as it always does, wild conjecture.
The 68th Cannes Film Festival concludes Sunday with the awarding of its top honor, the prestigious Palme d'Or, as well as a handful of other distinctions.
Few trophies in movies are more sought after than the Palme d'Or, but, unlike the Academy Awards, which whittles its field down to a few favorites over the course of months, Cannes winners are chosen clandestinely by a jury.
The mystery adds much suspense.
Throughout the festival, the jury, led by Joel and Ethan Coen, has quietly slipped in and out of theaters. Their deliberations are private, but that doesn't stop the world's media from endlessly debating the possible preferences of the Coens and fellow jurors Guillermo del Toro, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller, Sophie Marceau, Xavier Dolan, Rokia Traore and Rossy de Palma.
The Cannes competition concluded Saturday with the stylish bloodbath of director Justin Kurzel's "Macbeth," starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
All of the 19 films in competition could feasibly walk away with the Palme d'Or, but a handful of perceived favorites have emerged.
One thing is for certain: For the first time in several years, the Palme d'Or winner won't be a three-hour art-house epic. In 2013, Steven Spielberg's jury chose the lesbian coming-of-age drama "Blue is the Warmest Color"; last year, Jane Campion's jury elected the glacial Turkish drama "Winter Sleep."
Here are four films that could land the Palme d'Or:
"SON OF SAUL"
First-time filmmakers rarely make it into the competition, let alone win the Palme d'Or. The Camera d'Or, the Cannes award for best first feature, could ultimately be what director Laszlo Nemes' "Son of Saul" takes home, but no other film here found the universal acclaim that this Hungarian Holocaust drama did. Hauntingly gripping, it tracks a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz who believes his son is among the gas chamber dead.
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's latest was considered a slight step below his previous, Oscar-winning film "The Great Beauty." But his comic, melancholy tale of a retired composer (Michael Caine) reflecting on life and art at a Swiss spa was one of the liveliest entries of the festival. "Youth" is highlighted by the performances of two old vets: Caine and Harvey Keitel.
Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's latest was unquestionably the most beautiful film in Cannes, but was it the best? Many thought so, lavishing praise on the Taiwan director's lush, painterly imagery and his quiet inversion of the martial arts genre. The 68-year-old Hou is widely regarded as one of today's great filmmakers, but Western audiences' awareness of him has lagged behind that of the critics. A Palme d'Or would be the crowning of an acknowledged master.
Todd Haynes' adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel landed with obvious resonance. This year's Cannes has been dominated by debate about gender equality in film, and Haynes' film, which stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as illicit lovers in '50s America, is precisely the kind of story that has struggled to find big-screen representation. Plus, the tender precision of its romance had Cannes critics swooning.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP