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We shouldn’t give the Cannes Film Festival all the credence—the event itself is invitation-only and lots of the hubbub (including a strict dress code) often overshadows that it’s a film festival—but I’ve always appreciated their ability to spread the love around when it comes to awards. Just in the past decade, their Best Director prizes have gone to a solid and international assortment of filmmakers, such as:
This year was no exception when Park Chan-wook, who directed/cowrote Decision to Leave, became only the second South Korean to snag the Best Director prize. It’s not his first Cannes rodeo: He likely would’ve received the Palme d’Or almost 20 years ago with the intense, horrifying, and bleakly funny Oldboy if Fahrenheit 9/11 hadn’t also been in the running that year, so he settled for the Grand Prix.
Park is also beloved for such work as The Handmaiden (2016), Thirst (2009), and the other two-thirds of his “Vengeance Trilogy” (2002’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, 2005’s Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), plus the 2018 BBC series The Little Drummer Girl. So arthouse and discerning genre audiences are frothing at the mouth for his latest release, a neo-noir that sets a detective (Memories of Murder’s Park Hae-il) and a widow (Lust, Caution’s Tang Wei) on a crash course toward ruin when her husband falls (or is he pushed?) off a cliff.
Lies are told, suspicions are had, critics and fans will make lots of allusions to Hitchcock and other masters of suspense, and you’ll leave the theatre roughly two and a half hours later having witnessed a director in full control of their craft. Sometimes Cannes gets it right.