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Water Cooler: Revisit Cannes Film Festival history

UPDATED: Tue., July 20, 2021

Sharon Stone applauds as Vincent Lindon, director Julia Ducournau and Agathe Rousselle accept the Palme d’Or for the film "Titane" during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival in Cannes, Southern France, on Saturday.  (Vadim Ghirda)
Sharon Stone applauds as Vincent Lindon, director Julia Ducournau and Agathe Rousselle accept the Palme d’Or for the film "Titane" during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival in Cannes, Southern France, on Saturday. (Vadim Ghirda)

The Cannes Film Festival just wrapped up last weekend after a week of celebrating new films from around the world. Here’s a look back at some past winners throughout Cannes’ history, from its origin and struggles during World War II, through the 1950s and ’60s when it evolved as a place for commercial film industry exchange, to the ’70s and ’80s when selections broadened to include films from Asia, Oceania and South America, and through the ’90s to present day where the festival has cemented its role as an international platform for film and filmmakers.

“Cold War” – A director and singer begin a tumultuous and emotionally raw romance amid the ruins of post-war Poland. Directed by Paweł Pawlikowski. Starring Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot. Winner of Best Director, 2018. Poland. 88 minutes.

“Brief Encounter” – Based off the Noël Coward play, two strangers meet in a train station and feel immediately drawn to one another. The respite they experience from their normal lives is doomed from the beginning, but they can’t help but feel overwhelming emotion for one another. Directed by David Lean. Starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Winner of the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, 1946. United Kingdom. 86 minutes.

“Punch-Drunk Love” – An emotionally frustrated and socially awkward small business owner gets entangled with a group of scammers as he fights for his dreams and his newly found love. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Winner of Best Director, 2002. United States. 95 minutes.

“Shoplifters” – A family of shoplifters encounters a little girl alone in the freezing cold and decide to take her in despite their ongoing struggle to support the family members they already have. Although they seem to be living a happy life subsisting off petty crime, an unforeseen incident reveals a serious family secret. Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Starring Lily Franky, Kirin Kiki, Sakura Andô and Mayu Matsuoka. Winner of the Palme d’Or, 2018. Japan. 121 minutes.

“A Man Escaped” – This meditative and methodical film follows a French Resistance fighter who slowly engineers a risky escape from a Nazi prison. Marked by its quiet, singular focus on the experience of imprisonment and the fantasy of escape, this is often regarded as a masterwork. Directed by Robert Bresson. Starring François Leterrier. Winner of Best Director, 1957. France. 101 minutes.

“Man of Iron” – In 1980 Warsaw, the Communist Party sends a washed-up TV journalist to investigate the leader of a shipyard strike whose father had died in a protest a decade earlier. Posing as a sympathetic, the journalist works his way in to interview workers and friends involved in the labor activism. Directed by Andrzej Wajda. Starring Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Krystyna Janda and Marian Opania. Winner of the Palme d’Or, 1981. Poland. 156 minutes.

“Rififi” – What was meant to be a minor robbery blows up into a large-scale jewel heist, four criminals get overly confident that their plans are fool proof only to be undermined by the inevitable and fateful human element. Directed by Jules Dassin. Starring Jean Servais, Carl Möhner and Robert Manuel. Winner of Best Director, 1955. France. 118 minutes.

“Kagemusha” – A petty thief with a striking resemblance to an aging warlord is recruited to act as his double. When the warlord dies, the thief reluctantly agrees to impersonate him and take up arms as a powerful ruler. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. Starring Tatsuya Nakadai and Tsutomu Yamazaki. Winner of the Palme d’Or, 1980. Japan. 162 minutes.

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