Brutal class satire 'Triangle of Sadness' wins Cannes Palme d'Or

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 29 2022 04:55 AM | Updated as of May 29 2022 05:28 AM

Filipino actress Dolly De Leon AFP
Filipino actress Dolly De Leon speaks during a press conference for the film "Triangle of Sadness" at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 22, 2022. Julie Sebadelha, AFP

CANNES, France -- A viciously sharp satire about class conflict, with an already-infamous vomiting and pooping scene, was a surprise winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday (Sunday in Manila). 

"Triangle of Sadness" earned Sweden's Ruben Ostlund a place among the select group of directors who have won two Palmes d'Or, having already taken it in 2017 with "The Square". 

Now firmly established as the king of cringe in the arthouse world, Ostlund takes a scalpel to bourgeois niceties in his films, and this time turned his gaze on fashion models and the ultra-rich, who find their status suddenly undermined when disaster strikes their cruise ship.

An extended sequence of projectile vomiting and violent diarrhoea on the ship quickly became the talk of the festival after its premiere last week, leaving viewers either howling with laughter or turning green. 

Accepting the award, Ostlund said he wanted audiences to be entertained but also "ask themselves questions, to go out after the screening and have something to talk about."

In "Triangle of Sadness," Filipino actress Dolly De Leon portrayed Abigail, a toilet cleaner on a luxury yacht who, thanks to her skills, becomes the leader figure among the mega-privileged passengers when they get stranded on an island. The film got an eight-minute standing ovation after its premiere screening.

De Leon, a self-described "bit player" in local TV and film, did not win best actress but had earned raves for her breakout role, with Variety dubbing her performance as Oscar-worthy. 

Triangle of Sadness AFP
(From L) Swedish film director and screenwriter Ruben Östlund, South African model and actress Charlbi Dean, Swedish actor Henrik Dorsin, Danish actress Vicki Berlin, Swedish actor Arvin Kananian, US actor Woody Harrelson, Filipino actress Dolly de Leon and Swiss actress Sunnyi Melles arrive for the screening of the film "Triangle of Sadness" during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 21, 2022. Valery Hache, AFP

“To be honest, I have not broken out in the Philippines. I have not. I play bit roles — lawyers, doctors, the mother of the lead, the principal of a school, or the psychiatrist,” she earlier told Variety.

De Leon, a stage veteran who considers theater as her first love, clinched the part in “Triangle of Sadness” in 2018 after learning of the casting call from her colleagues. She started filming in 2020.

The Swedish production specifically sought actors in the Philippines “because there are a lot of overseas Filipino workers all over the world,” according to de Leon.

De Leon earlier said she hopes the buzz surrounding her portrayal would open more doors not just for her, but fellow “brown actors,” in the international scene.

“We have a rich history; we have a lot of stories to tell. It would be great if [Filipinos] were represented more in mainstream media," she said. 

- 'Come a long way' -

The most moving part of the ceremony was the best actress award that went to Iranian Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who was forced to flee her country 16 years ago following a smear campaign about her love life. 

She won for her role in "Holy Spider" as a journalist tracking down a serial killer who is murdering prostitutes in the holy city of Mashhad. 

"I have came a long way to be on this stage tonight. It was not an easy story," said Ebrahimi, who now lives in Paris.

"This film is about women, it's about their bodies, it's a movie full of faces, hair, hands, feet, breasts, sex -- everything that is impossible to show in Iran," she added.

Elsewhere, it was strong night for Asian cinema with best director going to South Korea's Park Chan-wook, known for 2003 thriller "Oldboy". 

He won for "Decision to Leave" about a detective falling for the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

And best actor went to Song Kang-ho, famous for his role as the father in the Oscar-winning "Parasite". 

He starred in "Broker" by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, a story about a man trying sell an abandoned child but who proves to have a tender heart despite his criminal endeavour. 

The runners-up Grand Prix was split between 32-year-old Belgian Lukas Dhont and French veteran Claire Denis.

Dhont's "Close" is a tender portrait of two boys facing bullying as they learn to grapple with their budding sexuality, while Denis won for "Stars at Noon", a love story set against political tensions in Central America.

The third-place Jury Prize was shared between "The Eight Mountains", about a lifelong friendship in the Italian Alps and the festival's most radical entry, "EO", a movie told entirely from the point of view of a donkey by legendary Polish arthouse director, 84-year-old Jerzy Skolimowski.

- Blockbuster edition -

The 12-day festival saw plenty of Hollywood glitz, kickstarted by Tom Cruise with his first trip to Cannes in 30 years to launch "Top Gun: Maverick", accompanied by a French Air Force display team.

It was a great year for music-lovers -- Baz Luhrmann shaking things up with his much-anticipated rock'n'roll biopic, "Elvis", and critics blown away by an ultra-immersive documentary about David Bowie, "Moonage Daydream".

By coincidence, Elvis's granddaughter Riley Keough won the Camera d'Or, the prize for best first film, for "War Pony" with co-director Gina Gammell. 

The war in Ukraine cast a shadow over proceedings from the start with a video message from President Volodymyr Zelensky at the opening ceremony. 

Several Ukrainian films received special screenings, and there was bitter debate over the inclusion of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov in the main competition, despite his condemnation of the war.

The jury was led by French actor Vincent Lindon, who spoke of a similar struggle among its nine members -- who included two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and Indian superstar Deepika Padukone -- to reach a decision on the winners, joking they would need "four more years" to get it right. 

To mark the 75th jubilee edition of the festival, a special prize was awarded to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who have twice won the Palme d'Or and were back in competition with the well-received migrant drama "Tori and Lokita". 

Last year's jury, led by US director Spike Lee, gave the Palme to a woman for only the second time in the festival's history -- French director Julia Ducournau for the gory and radical "Titane". -- with a report from Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News; © Agence France-Presse

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