Palme d’or: the 1970s
In 1972, the Festival asserted its independence by becoming the sole decision-maker for the Official Selection, whereas until then, films eligible for the Selection had been designated by their country of origin. After the interruption of the Festival de Cannes in May 1968, the event modernised by favouring creative freedom and commitment. The Palme d'or highlights arthouse cinema and facilitates the emergence of young international directors such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola or the Taviani brothers... A look back at a decade of challenging Palmes d'or: films you'll want to watch, and watch again.
Adapted from Richard Hooker's autobiographical novel, the film follows two young surgeons assigned to a military hospital during the Korean War. Robert Altman's decision to use actors unknown to the general public revealed the talents of Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould and Robert Duvall. The satirical comedy took on a new political significance thanks to its anti-militarist point of view and its resonance with the Vietnam War.
The Go-Between by Joseph Losey (1971)
After writing The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967), Harold Pinter adapted a novel by L.P. Hartley for Joseph Losey. "The past is a foreign land... where one acts differently," says the narrator. In 1900, as a teenager, he witnesses the secret affair between a young aristocrat (Julie Christie) and a farmer (Alan Bates). From the memory of that Proustian summer emerge the class relationships dear to the director of M (1951) and Monsieur Klein (1976).
La classe operaia va in paradiso (the working class goes to heaven) by Elio Petri (1972)
Through the revolt of a worker victim of a workplace accident, Elio Petri shines a spotlight on the society's outcasts. "It was important to make a film that shows how a worker ends up going on strike. The starting point was the idea of assembly line work, which makes men slaves to the same job for years without them even knowing what it's for," explained the director.
Il caso Mattei (the mattei affair) by Francesco Rosi (1972)
The year 1972 marks the year of Italian cinema in Cannes. The Mattei Affair, which won the tied Palme d'or, plunges us into a devastated post-war Italy. Gian Maria Volontè plays Enrico Mattei, an oil magnate and confirmed democrat, murdered in mysterious circumstances. Based on a true story, The Mattei Affair was considered an accursed work. Francesco Rosi received threats throughout the filming, and the journalist who investigated the case for the purposes of the film disappeared. Despite its Palme d'or, the film struggled to be released in cinemas and has not been released on DVD.
The Hireling by Alan Bridges (1973)
In 1920s England, Lady Franklin (Sarah Miles), a young aristocrat who has been depressed since the death of her husband, befriends Steven Ledbetter (Robert Shaw), her chauffeur. When Ledbetter learns that his employer is in love with the president of the local boxing club, he cannot contain his jealousy. The film is based on a Victorian novel by L.P. Hartley, which Joseph Losey had already successfully adapted for The Go-Between (1971).
Scarecrow by Jerry Schatzberg (1973)
Wandering on the road in search of a second chance, Max and Lion (Al Pacino and Gene Hackman) become friends. One comes out of prison while the other pursues the dream of finding his family. Together, they hitchhike to their destination. "Laughter is a fearsome weapon for dealing with delicate situations," shouts Al Pacino’s character, echoing the film's desperate comedy.
The Conversation by Francis Ford Coppola (1974)
The Conversation is a paranoid thriller whose release coincided with the Watergate scandal. Gene Hackman plays a virtuoso of eavesdropping. Everything changes when he realizes that Mark and Ann, the young people he spies on for one of his clients, are in mortal danger. For the first of his two Palmes d'or, Francis Ford Coppola delivers a variation of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966).
جمر سنين وقائع ,Waqa'i' sanawat ed-djamr (Chronicle of the Years of FirE) by Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina (1975)
Chronicle of the Years of Fire retraces the long journey the Algerian people undertook against French colonisation, which led to the declaration of independence of the country in 1954. "With this film, I wanted to explain for the first time how the Algerian war came about. This revolt, which became the Algerian revolution, is not only against the coloniser, but also against the human condition," said Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. It remains the only Algerian film to have received the Palme d'or to date.
Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese (1976)
Robert De Niro is Travis Bickle, a Vietnam War veteran turned taxi driver. Weighed down by his tormented loneliness in the slums of New York City, he soon sinks into a destructive madness. Paul Schrader said he wrote the autobiographical script for the film in a few days, and insisted that the young Martin Scorsese direct it.
Padre Padrone by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (1977)
Raised by an abusive father, Gavino grows up on an isolated farm. As an illiterate young adult, he manages to escape and is educated at school before taking up the profession of linguist. Deeply moved by Gavino Ledda's autobiography, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani decided to tell his story in their own way. This abrupt film, born in a hurry, was not even intended for cinema release. Its consecration at the Festival de Cannes gave it international visibility.
L'albero degli zoccoli (the tree of wooden clogs) by Ermanno Olmi (1978)
The Tree of Wooden Clogs is a historical fresco depicting 19th-century Italy through the story of four peasant families. Ermanno Olmi's story matures over twenty years, based on the stories of his ancestors and his own childhood memories. He hired only non-professional actors and shot for a year in natural settings.
Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola freely adapts Joseph Conrad's 1899 short story Heart of Darkness. During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard's mission is to find Colonel Kurtz in the Cambodian jungle and dissolve the group he has taken over. Regarding the genesis of the film, Coppola said: "Apocalypse Now is not a film about Vietnam, it is Vietnam. And the way we made Apocalypse Now is similar to the way the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had too much money, too much material and little by little, we went crazy."
Die Blechtrommel (the tin drum) by Volker Schlöndorff (1979)
The German director Volker Schlöndorff takes his inspiration from a novel by Günter Grass to tell the strange story of Oskar in The Tin Drum, the tied 1979 Palme d'or. Born in 1924, Oskar refuses to grow up in a world he considers hateful. Always carrying his drum, he uses his piercing cries to persecute those around him. His revolt and darkness intensify with the rise of Nazism.