Today is the opening day of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.
It’s notoriously difficult to predict who or what is going to win at Cannes. The Cannes juries can be very idiosyncratic and, traditionally, they are encouraged to spread the awards around and to resist the temptation to give too much to one film. Every year, it seems like there’s a movie that everyone says is the front runner to win the Palme d’Or and every year, it seems like that film ultimately goes home empty-handed.
That said, having looked over the jury (which includes Ruben Ostlund, Paul Dano, Brie Larson, and Julie Ducournau) and having taken a look at the film that will be competing this year, I’m going to throw caution to wind and make a prediction.
The winner of the Palme d’Or will be Ken Loach’s The Old Oak.
It doesn’t give me a lot of pleasure to say that because I’m not a huge Ken Loach fan. I find the majority of his political-themed film to be heavy-handed and his efforts to bully other artists into supporting BDS to be reprehensible. Many of his comments about Israel have been so extreme that, even if one chooses not to believe him to be a flat-out anti-Semite, he’s still what Lenin used to refer to as being a “useful idiot.”
That said, Loach’s style of social realism has always found a more receptive audience in Europe than it has in the United States. Ken Loach has already won the Palme d’Or twice before. (“Who is Ken Loach?” trended on American twitter after he won it for I, Daniel Blake, which just goes to show you how one can be a household name in one country and totally unknown in another.) He’s in his 80s and he’s announced that, after a 60-year career, The Old Oak is his final film. This is the film that he’s going out on and it’s presumably the film that sums up his concerns are a filmmaker. This plot description is from the film’s Wikipedia page and it certainly sounds like a Ken Loach film:
A pub landlord TJ Bannatyne (Dave Turner) in a previously thriving mining community in County Durham struggles to hold on to his pub and keep it as the one remaining public space people can meet in the town. Meanwhile, tensions rise in the town when Syrian refugees are placed there but Bannatyne strikes up a friendship with one of the refugees, Yara (Ebla Mari).
This really does sound like a film that hits at every issue right now. At a time when the film industry is caught up in a labor dispute, the film is about the owner of a pub in a dying mining community. In a time in economic uncertainty, it features a small business owner trying to keep his business alive. And, it deals with the refugee crisis. I doubt there will be anything subtle or even-handed about it but then again, one could say the same thing about the previous Loach films that won the Palme d’Or. Politically, the film sounds as if it hits all the right buttons and, regardless of what I may think of him, Ken Loach is a filmmaker who definitely has his admirers.
I’m predicting The Old Oak will win the Palme d’Or. We’ll find out if I’m right on May 27th.
I covered the festival for 20 years and those were the greatest experiences of my life
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