After four consecutive years of defeat against other continents, European cinema won the international Oscar for feature film earlier this year with the Danish film “Another Round” by Thomas Vinterberg. It was a return to form for the region which has traditionally dominated the race, and boasts the lion’s share of contenders at the submission stage each year. Over 40% of the 93 entries for this year’s race are European, and with many of the season’s hottest titles among them, the continent has a strong collective chance of retaining gold.
Not that the buzz always translates into gold in this category, in which no year goes by without at least one high-profile competitor even making it onto the pre-nominations list.
The biggest wildcard in this year’s race comes from the country that holds the record for the most nominations in the history of the category: having pushed 39 films in the last five previously, France tends to expertly submit, but took a risk with Julia Ducournau’s violence, the body horror provocation “Titanium”, which possibly won the Palme d’Or at Cannes – the same award that launched “Parasite” to Oscar glory two years ago – but is well outside the Academy’s usual comfort zone in form and content.
The sheer daring of Ducournau’s film might secure it a shortlist space on swagger and volume alone, but many voters will be put off by the genderqueer themes and visceral presentation of Neon’s release. (Remember that even the less graphic provocations of France’s 2016 submission “Elle” turned out to be too spicy for the shortlist, despite a nod from the lead actress to star Isabelle Huppert.) How’s that? will happen will be an interesting test of how much younger, more international the Academy is, new members have infiltrated this former curator-
A safer bet for a place on the shortlist is Neon’s other big acquisition at Cannes: Norway’s lyrical, bittersweet romantic comedy-drama ‘The Worst Person in the World’. Adapted to audiences and beloved by critics, Joachim Trier’s film won the Actress Award at Cannes for superstar Renate Reinsve, and could, with a savvy campaign, appear in other Oscar categories, including the original screenplay. It remains to be seen whether the film’s painfully precise meditation on the Millennial Condition resonates with older voters.
The old guard may well be more interested in the male nostalgia and misty eyes of the entry of Italy, the autobiographical study of Paolo Sorrentino on the coming of age of the 80s “The hand of God” , which won the Venice Grand Prix and is Netflix’s top prospect in the race. Sorrentino’s mark of grandiose maximalism and Fellini’s ape is a taste that many Academy members have acquired. Its Roman panorama “La Grande Beauté” won the 2013 Oscar, which happens to be the last time Italy (which holds the record for the most wins in the category, edging France) emerged victorious. “The Hand of God” exchanges exactly the same type of red-blooded spectacle.
Ahead of Italy or France, defending champions Denmark hold the most enviable recent record of any country in the category: just three times in the past 11 years has their candidacy failed to reach the minus the preselection stage. Most pundits would expect this year’s entry ‘Flee’ to continue the good fortune of the Danes: one of the year’s most celebrated documentaries in any language, this surprisingly lively portrayal of a A gay Afghan refugee has been a festival favorite since winning top honors at Sundance. , and aims to become the first film to earn nominations in the animation, documentary and international feature film categories.
In the past two years, “Collectif” and “Honeyland” have both achieved double marks in the last two categories; previous international nominees “Waltz With Bashir” and “The Missing Picture” have proven that even animated or formally experimental docs stand a chance. Non-fiction is not the novelty it once was in the category. “Flee” might even be the first documentary to win. Two other paper submissions, the UK’s Turkish femicide investigation ‘Dying to Divorce’ and Portugal’s lyrical and hybrid paternal study study ‘The Metamorphosis of Birds’ are less likely to progress: the first is perhaps too conventional on television, the latter too radical.
“Flee” isn’t the only LGBTQ + themed film with a serious hit in the list: Austria’s entry, Sebastian Meise’s emotionally heartbreaking prison drama “Great Freedom” may find support in the branch for the classic grace he brings to his story of the long-term post-war relationship between a gay man repeatedly jailed for his sexuality and his initially homophobic cellmate.
Along with ‘Flee’, two other Sundance hits to consider are Kosovo’s entry ‘Hive’, which won the Audience and Grand Jury Awards for World Cinema at the Independent Festival, and ‘Luzzu’ from Malta.
Both are serious, affecting slices of local-flavored social realism: the first, a story about women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship and beekeeping, is both accessible and topical. A bolder, more abrasive study of a young woman abusing patriarchy, Russian Cannes Un Certain Regard winner Un Certain Regard’s “Loosen the Fists” has raw power, albeit a more difficult watch.
Yet on a feminist theme, Slovakia’s striking and unreported “107 Mothers” deserve more consideration for its stylistically distinctive and very moving portrayal of motherhood in the Ukrainian prison system. Meanwhile, you’d be hard pressed to find a more fearless heroine than Nora, the 7-year-old protagonist of Belgium’s unique entry “Playground”, a poignant and immersive schoolyard bullying story with the prospect of a child.
Sony Classics has an enviable track record in this category, having recently won wins for films such as “A Fantastic Woman”, “Son of Saul”, “Love” and “A Separation”. This bodes well for the Finnish charmer of Cannes “Compartment n ° 6”, an endearing film on the road (or on the rail) for two that the distributor seized shortly before winning the Grand Prix du French festival.
Better yet for the film by Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen, it will grab Sony’s full attention in the category after the distributor’s most prominent hope, Pedro Almodóvar’s melodrama starring Penelope Cruz with “Parallel Mothers”, was ignored by Spanish breeders in favor of The corporate farce with Fernando León de Aranoa’s Javier Bardem “The good boss”. While the signs were there – as it turns out, León de Aranoa’s ‘Mondays in the Sun’ were chosen over Almodóvar’s ‘Talk to Her’ in 2002 – it’s hard not to feel that the Spanish breeders chose the wrong horse from the Bardem-Cruz stable. Despite Bardem’s strong star power, it would be surprising to see this confusing but very broad comedy go far in the race.
Speaking of star power, perhaps the unexpected novelty of a hilarious, all-German-speaking Dan Stevens could propel Germany’s submission “I’m Your Man” to the shortlist. An ironic and thoughtful sci-fi romantic comedy from Emmy-winning “Unorthodox” director Maria Schrader starring the former “Downton Abbey” idol as a robot boyfriend too good-looking to be human for her wife. Maren Eggert’s stressed career, he stands a chance if the Academy is open to its mix of quirky genres.
The same goes for the Icelandic entry, Valdimar Johansson’s dark and funny folk horror fantasy, “Lamb,” which has dedicated followers and the prestigious support of distributor A24, although the spooky and weird dishes do. rarely well here. Finally, will the Academy’s stomach for offbeat comedy extend to the submission of Romania, the Berlin Golden Bear winner “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” – albeit as with “Titanium”, a place on the shortlist for Radu Jude’s satirical and satirical film. bone satire would be indicative of an international branch of feature films truly poised to broaden its horizons.