The Festival
de Cannes
The Festival de Cannes: a unique place of expression for international cinematographic creation

Over its different editions, the Festival de Cannes has become one of the mirrors of worldwide film production. A number of film movements have been revealed, expressed and affirmed there. Discover 7 major periods that have punctuated the history of the Festival.

The golden age of Italian cinema
1945. In a country being reconstructed, Italian cinema found a new aesthetic: neorealism. Its goal? To use the camera to transcribe the reality of everyday life of society. The movement distinguished itself among the winners at Cannes, before leaving its place to its heirs: Fellini, Visconti et Antonioni. A look back at 3 Italian films that left an impact on the early days of the Festival.

“ To a certain extent, everything is realist. There is no border between the imaginary and the real. ”

Federico Fellini

Roma città aperta

Rome, Open City

Roberto Rossellini

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This film marks the birth of Italian neorealism. The feature film was selected In Competition for the 1st edition of the Festival de Cannes, which screened 44 films from 19 countries.
Rome, Open City won the Grand Prix (the ancestor of the Palme d’or) alongside ten other films. For the screenplay, Rossellini partnered with Sergio Amidei – the beginning of a long collaboration between the two men – as well as Federico Fellini, then a young journalist.

Source: Cinémathèque


Miracolo a Milano

Miracle in Milan

Vittorio de Sica

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A founding member of Italian neorealism, the director of The Bicycle Thieves broke with the rules he had himself laid down with his new film Miracle in Milan. Although the starting point is the reality of a destitute existence, the film progressively moves away from that to take on the allures of a tale, with the appearance of the marvellous. Present in the Official Selection of the 4th edition of the Festival, the film won the Grand Prix, along with Alf Sjöberg’s Miss Julie.

Source: CNC


La Dolce Vita

Federico Fellini

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UA year after’s Les Quatre Cents Coups de François Truffaut, La Dolce Vita marked the definitive entry of cinema into modernity. Upon its release, it left nobody indifferent and soon became a scandal. Fellini’s work was condemned by the Vatican for its decadent vision of Roman high society. It was even debated in the Italian Parliament!
But the controversy also led to success: there were lines in front of theatres and the Jury of the 13th edition of the Festival de Cannes unanimously granted it the Palme d’or. That same year, another major Italian film took home the Jury Prize: Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura.

Sources: L’Humanité, La Croix

Nine years after the first of the Festival, a new was handed out on the the Palme d’or, which took over from the Grand Prix of the International Film Festival. World cinema now had its trophy. It was now ready to take a breath of fresh air, a new wave led by young French directors.
THE NEW wave
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Asserting the primacy of the director over the screenwriter. With the New Wave, auteur cinema was born. A shared desire: to break with the conformity of French filmmaking of the time. Revealed to the general public during the 12th edition of the Festival, the movement became a major influence for directors of the past and of today.

Les Quatre Cents Coups

The 400 Blows

François Truffaut

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1959, a historic year? In any event, it was the year that François Truffaut presented his first feature film at Cannes. It was an immediate success: the story of the young Antoine Doinel had a triumphant reception at the Festival. At the end of the screening, the film’s 14-year-old leading actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, was carried aloft.
While The 400 Blows did not win the Palme d’or – that honour going to Marcel Camus’ Orfeu Negro the film that the New was the Best Director Award.

Source: Le Monde (archives)


Hiroshima mon amour

Alain Resnais

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Released the same year as The 400 Blows, this adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ book was the talk of the town. And for good reason: the film was perceived as anti-American by the US, to such an extent that their delegation asked that it be removed from Competition at the festival. The film was nonetheless screened during the 12th edition of the Festival, but did not compete for the Palme d’or. At the helms of the new Ministry of Culture, the writer André Malraux is said to have declared after viewing the film that Hiroshima Mon Amour was the most beautiful film he had ever seen.

Sources: Télérama, Le Monde


La Religieuse

The Nun

Jacques Rivette

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The big-screen adaptation of Denis Diderot’s novel caused a scandal before it was even released. Although twice approved by the censorship board, the film ended up being banned in 1966 by the Minister of Information. An uproar! Numerous artists rallied to support Jacques Rivette – Jean-Luc Godard chief among them. The Nun was eventually selected In Competition for the 19th edition of the Festival de Cannes under another name: Suzanne Simonin, la Religieuse de Diderot. Censorship of the film ended one year later and the film could finally be released to theatres… for those who were 18 or older.

Sources: CNC, Le Monde

Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored - Censored
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From its creation to the 1970s, the films selected In Competition at Cannes were designated by their country of origin. As a result, the artistic value of films was not the sole criterion taken into account. The Festival continued its modernization by turning its back on this practice in 1973. From then on, an independent selection committee would be responsible for the Official Selection.
This change valued a more engaged cinema, notably from Hollywood, where a number of new talents were emerging. Among them: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg.
THE NEW Hollywood
In the US, the 1960s were strongly marked by the conflict in Vietnam. The opposition from civil society to this war began to be reflected little by little in cinema, eventually becoming one of the major themes of the films of The New Hollywood. A look at three such films which had success at Cannes.


Robert Altman

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1969. Screened at Cannes, Easy Rider signalled the revolt of non-conformist youth and the first steps of a movement that would soon become known as The New Hollywood. One year later, Robert Altman denounced, in his own roundabout way, American intervention in Vietnam.
Dès sa sortie, M.A.S.H was an immediate hit – so much so that it was adapted into a TV series broadcast from 1972 to 1983. The Jury of the 23rd edition awarded it the Grand Prix du Festival (which replaced the Palme d’or between 1964 and 1974).

Source: Slash film

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Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese

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New York as a backdrop, alienation and violence as the main themes: this mythical film paints the picture of a taxi driver and his insomnia, the result of his probable past in Vietnam.
Selected for the 26th edition of the Festival, Taxi Driver was met with boos during its screening. In response, Martin Scorsese, Robert de Niro and Harvey Keitel refused to meet the press leaving 13-year-old Jodie Foster to handle the interviews. The Jury, however, did not share the opinion of the journalists and awarded the Palme d’or to the film.

Source: France Info


Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola

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After a nightmarish shoot, Francis Ford Coppola presented his film as a work in progress, the first of its kind In Competition at Cannes. While Apocalypse Now was well received during its screening, there was a dissenting voice. Françoise Sagan, president of the Jury of this 32nd edition, hated the film and was not shy about saying so. Little matter, the Palme d’or was awarded to the American director, who tied with Volker Schlöndorff for The Tin Drum. A crowning achievement for Coppola, who had won his first Palme d’Or five years previously for The Conversation, making him the first director to win Cannes’ highest distinction twice..

Sources: Télérama, France Info

After a decade dominated by American cinema from The New Hollywood, the Selection of the Festival opened to new horizons.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the Festival displayed a new ambition: to value films with an assertive aesthetic stance that were nonetheless capable of reaching a wide audience.
Openness to the general public
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Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom, Emir Kusturica’s Underground, and Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever... During the 1990s, a a number of auteur films met with success at the Festival, winning awards. It was also a time where such films met with great commercial success once released to theatres. A look at three emblematic films from this period where auteur cinema and popular appeal came together.

Barton Fink

Joel et Ethan Coen

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The Coen brothers’ fourth film made off with everything. In Competition for the 44th edition of the Festival, Barton Fink took home the Best Actor Prize for John Turturro, as well as the Best Director Prize and, finally, the Palme d’or: a historic and unprecedented hat trick. As time would go on, only two other films would receive three awards. Bruno Drumont’s L’Humanité dand Michael Haneke’s La Pianiste, each winning the Grand Prix of the Jury and the Best Actor and Best Actress Awards.

Source: Sud Ouest

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Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino

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After Reservoir Dogs, screened Out of Competition in 1992, Quentin Tarantino returned to the Croisette with a second feature film, this one presented In Competition.
Despite a lukewarm reception during its screening, he Jury, presided over by Clint Eastwood, awarded it the Palme d’or, to widespread surprise. More than thirty years after its release, Pulp Fiction has become a cult film and remains an essential aspect of contemporary cinema.

Sources: Télérama, Première

So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good - So far, so good

La Haine

Mathieu Kassovitz

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Two syllables were on the lips of all the participants of the 48th edition of the Festival. Arriving in numbers to promote the film, the team behind La Haine quickly attracted love from the festival goers. But when they climbed the steps of the Palais des Festivals, the police who were providing security turned their back on them in protest against a film considered “anti-police”.
The following day, the Jury awarded the Best Director Award to Mathieu Kassovitz. In France, the film quickly became a social phenomenon, with more than two million tickets bought.

Sources: France 3, Criterion, INA, Radio Canada, Box-office

Throughout its history, the Festival de Cannes has not ceased to value youth, provided it be creative, innovative and daring. This desire was rendered concrete, in particular, with the creation of two new awards in 1978: Un Certain Regard, to distinguish a formally original film made by a little-known director, and the la Caméra d’or, which awards the best first film from all Selections.
And as far as Selections are concerned, this demanding search for innovation led to the arrival of a handful of Scandinavian directors, who, at the turn of the century, advocated for sobriety and austerity in their conception of cinema.
Dogme95 Dogme 95 and the Scandinavian Revival
In 1995, two Danish filmmakers wrote a manifesto in Copenhagen: it was the birth of Dogme95. Following the example of François Truffaut, Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier were critical of a certain trend in contemporary cinema”. Together, they would give rise to a series of films without artifice and provide a new jolt to Scandinavian cinema.


The Celebration

Thomas Vinterberg

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Three years after the writing of the manifesto, the first film of Dogme95 was selected In Competition during the 51st edition of the Festival. The Celebration consecrated the “vow of chastity” demanded by the movement: no artificial light, filming with a portable camera, no credit for the director. Only the use of 35 mm film was not adhered to.
Doubtful of the success of his film, Thomas Vinterberg received an ovation from the audience during the screening of his film at Cannes. The Celebration won the Jury Prize and definitively launched the career of its director.

Sources: France Culture, Télérama, Bande à part



The Idiots

Lars von Trier

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The same year as Festen, the Official Selection of the Festival picked Les Idiots, the second film to be labelled as Dogme 95. This was not the Danish director’s first rodeo at Cannes: he had already won the Jury Prize twice, for Europa and Breaking the Waves, as well as the Grand Prix de la Commission Supérieure Technique, for The Element of Crime.
Highly anticipated and a favourite for the Competition, the film won no awards. That being said, it left nobody indifferent: a shocking subject, violent directing, a part of the theatre applauded, the other hissed the director... who did not attend the press conference, letting the team behind the film speak in his stead.

Sources: Telegraph, L’Orient-Le-Jour


Dancer in the Dark

Lars von Trier

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Inspired by the aesthetic developed by Dogme 95, Dancer in the Dark the third film of the “Golden Heart” trilogy, will mark the Danish director’s triumph at Cannes. Winner of the Palme d’or, this musical drama became the first feature film shot on digital camera to receive this highest distinction. As the main actress and composer of the score, Björk was granted the Best Actress Award.

Sources: Centre Pompidou, CNC

Long dominated by European and American cinema, the Festival de Cannes has not stopped opening up to films from around the world.
For several decades, films from Australia, China, Cuba, India, New Zealand and the Philippines have been part of the Official Selection. But at the beginning of the 21st century, it was to Southeast Asia that the focus turned.
The Triumph of Asian Cinema
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Present for a longtime In Competition – as King Hu’s Xia Nu - A Touch of Zen attests to, In Competition at the 1975 edition – it took until 1993 and Chen Kaige’s Bawang Bieji for China to win its first Palme d’or. Since then, the links between Cannes and Southeast Asia (China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand, chiefly) have only grown stronger.

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-Wai

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Time was running out, Cannes was coming up soon, and Wong Kar-Wai had yet to finish his film! The Hong Kong director worked until the eleventh hour to provide a copy of the film for the Competition.
Selected for the 53rd edition of the Festival, it took home the Best Actor Award for Tony Leung Chiu-wai.
In the Mood for Love became a classic for film lovers. Ten years after its release, Xavier Dolan paid tribute to it in Les Amours Imaginaires - Heartbeats, selected for Un Certain Regard in 2010.

Sources: Britannica, South China Morning Post, Ecran noir


Lung Boonmee raluek chat

Uncle Boonmee, Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

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After two award-winning films (Blissfully Yours, ​winner of the Un Certain Regard prize in 2002, and Tropical Malady, winner of the Jury Prize (tied) in 2004), the Thai director made his return to the Croisette with Uncle Boomee, Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a new experimental feature film.
Several days prior, it was uncertain if the director would be able to make it: with the repression of the Red Shirts going on in Bangkok, the director went to the airport... without his passport, left behind in the burning city centre. Going back to get it would be too dangerous, so he was given a special passport to go to Cannes. A good thing, too: Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d’or of the 63rd edition of the Festival!

Sources: Le Point, Universalis, FDC, FDC, Critikat




Bong Joon-ho

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While Korean films had already received awards (in particular Old Boy winner of the Grand Prix in 2004, and Thirst, winner of the Jury Prize (tied) in 2009, by Park Chan-wook) it wasn’t until 2019 that a Korean film took home the Palme d’or. Presided over by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Jury of the 72nd edition unanimously awarded Bong Joon-ho’s social satire. This distinction confirms the durability of links that have been made between South Korea and the Festival since the 1980s. After its widespread critical success, Parasite was a box office hit and shone a light on demanding auteur filmmaking that could nonetheless reach a wide audience.

Sources: Boxofficepro, SensCritique, 20 Minutes

China, South Korea, India, Mexico... The new millennium has gone along with the internationalisation of cinema, and Cannes is the reflection of that. But this does not in any way mean turning one’s back on the past: the heritage mission of the Festival can be seen with the 2004 creation of Cannes Classics, a selection of restored copies of films, tributes to the cinematography of artists who rewrite the rules and reinvent their art.
The 2000s: A Renewal of Auteur Cinema
After a decade marked by the coming together of independent productions and the general public, the new millennium brought about a new era of auteur cinema at Cannes. A look back at 3 emblematic films from the 2000s where the director was also the screenwriter.


Gus Van Sant

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After his beginnings in independent cinema, then Hollywood productions, Gus Van Sant took a step back from big-budget pictures. As can be seen in Elephant, his films took a new direction at the beginning of the 2000s: more stripped down, they are also more demanding on a technical level.
In 2003, his story inspired by the Columbine tragedy wone the Palme d’or and the Best Director Award at the 56th edition of the Festival. A remarkable performance: the first film to win two filmmaking awards since the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink in 1991.

Sources: INA, Washington Post, Variety



Xavier Dolan

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After award-winning debuts on the Croisette for Les Amours Imaginaires - Heartbeats (Un Certain Regard 2010) and Laurence Anyways (Best Actress Award (tied), Un Certain Regard 2014), the young Quebecois entered into Competition with his fifth feature film.
In the running for the Palme d’or, Mommy ultimately won the Jury Prize, after having been a sensation throughout the festival. Xavier Dolan took advantage of the award ceremony to thank Jane Campion (Palme d’or (tied) for The Piano in 1993) and launched an appeal to his generation: “In sum, I think that anything is possible to those who dream, dare, work, and never give up. And this prize is the most radiant proof.”

Sources: Première, RTBF



Julia Ducournau

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After a year without awards in 2020, the 2021 edition marked the return of Competition to the Croisette.
Already noticed with Grave - Raw (Semaine de la critique 2016), Julia Ducournau returned to Cannes with Titane, her second feature film in her own characteristic style. By using the rules of genre filmmaking, the director deals above all with mutation and interrogates our relationship to the body. By winning the Palme d’or for this 74th edition, the French director became the second woman to take home the highest honour, twenty-eight years after Jane Campion.

Sources: Le Monde, Le Monde