It’s Cannes season! The world’s most prestigious film festival kicked off on Tuesday, May 14 on the French Riviera, where the city of Cannes has played host to over 70 years of cinematic history. Only one of the films screened will come away with the Palme d’Or, one of the highest honors in the film world. Of the nineteen films in the running this year, seven are Francophone, with directors hailing from France, Mali, Belgium, Québec, and Senegal.

But if you didn’t get your invite this year, check out a prizewinner from years past à la médiathèque ! Each of these French and Belgian films in our library won the top prize in their year. A little history: the award was known as the “Grand Prix du Festival International du Film” until it was changed to “Palme d’Or” in 1955, changed again to “Grand Prix International” in 1964, and finally returned to “Palme d’Or” in 1975.

Le salaire de la peur (1953)

In this French-Italian thriller, four men are hired to drive trucks of highly explosive nitroglycerine over mountain dirt roads to put out a fire in an American oil well. This suspenseful film was an immediate critical and box-office success, but was cut significantly for U.S. release after it was accused of being anti-American.

Les parapluies de Cherbourg (1964)

If you’re looking for something a little more upbeat, look no further than Jacques Demy’s classic musical! Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo star as Geneviève and Guy, young lovers separated by the draft at the start of the Algerian War. Their colorful romance won over the hearts of audiences worldwide.

Un homme et une femme (1966)

Anne and Jean-Louis are widowed parents who meet by chance at the boarding school attended by their children. The two instantly connect and begin a delicate first new relationship, complicated by their grief. This romance was an instant classic that went on to win the Oscar for best foreign film. Decades later, director Claude Lelouch continued the story with two sequels: Un homme et une femme : Vingt ans déjà in 1986, and Les Plus Belles Années d'une vie, which will premiere out of competition at this year’s Cannes.

Sous le soleil de Satan (1987)

In this adaptation of a Georges Bernanos novel, Gérard Depardieu plays a rural priest who becomes obsessed with saving the soul of Mouchette, a pregnant woman accused of murder. Though it went on to win, the film was actually booed after its Cannes screening, prompting director Maurice Pialat to respond in his acceptance speech: “if you do not like me, I can say that I do not like you either.”

Rosetta (1999)

Newcomer Émilie Dequenne won Best Actress for her portrayal of Rosetta, a teenager desperate to escape poverty and the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother. It was to be the first of many Cannes victories for Belgian filmmaking team of brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne over the following decades.

L’enfant (2005)

The Dardenne brothers won their third Palme d’Or for L’Enfant, another scoreless social issue drama. Sonia and Bruno are a young Belgian couple surviving on welfare checks and petty thievery. After Sonia gives birth to their son, Bruno has little interest in raising a child and instead sells him on the black market.

Entre les murs (2008)

Based on the 2006 semi-autobiographical novel and starring its author, Entre les murs follows a class of students in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. With students that vary in their upbringing, countries of origin, levels of French, and behavior, the new French language and literature teacher struggles to maintain control of his class.

La vie d’Adèle (2013)

Based on the 2010 bande dessinée, La vie d’Adèle (known as Blue is the Warmest Color in the U.S.) follows the life and love of a French teenager. Adèle’s whole world changes when she meets Emma, a painter with shockingly blue hair. Instantly controversial for its sexually explicit scenes, the film unanimously won the top prize at Cannes. It was the first to receive this prestigious award both for its directing and lead actresses, making Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos two of only three women to have ever received the Palme d’Or.

Looking for more? These films won the Grand Prix, the second most prestigious prize at Cannes. Check them out at the circulation desk!

Do you have a favorite for this year’s Palme d’Or? Let us know in the comments section!

Elizabeth Taft

Library Assistant

Elizabeth has a B.A. in French from Wellesley College and is studying Library and Information Science at Simmons University. During a year in Aix-en-Provence she hiked Mont Sainte-Victoire, volunteered at a short film festival, and attended France's largest book fair. Her work at the French Library combines her love of language and libraries.

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