A bout of hysteria took over the Cannes Film Festival in 1999 when the competition jury, led by David Cronenberg, awarded a little film called “Rosetta” the Palme d’Or over Pedro Almodóvar’s emotional epic “All About My Mother.” The story — now recently resurfaced in the press — goes that Cronenberg and his peers, including André Téchiné, George Miller, Holly Hunter, and Jeff Goldblum, went out of their way to award another film over Almodóvar’s eventual Oscar winner.
But the truth is, “Rosetta” was the last film to play the festival that year, and so many journalists tipping their Palme predictions in the direction of Almodóvar didn’t actually see the Dardennes’ slice-of-life drama, throwing prognosticators’ Cannes crystal balls out of orbit.
Cronenberg himself previously debunked the made-up feud in a 2014 Vulture interview, noting that the final decision was unanimous. But during a Cannes 2022 conversation promoting Cronenberg’s new competition entry “Crimes of the Future,” star Viggo Mortensen noted that the rumor had reappeared recently in “the Spanish press again a couple days ago.” In conversation with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn at the American Pavilion, Mortensen refused to believe that Almodóvar was “deprived” of the Palme d’Or by Cronenberg’s jury, and he laid out why.
“It’s like Trump. You keep saying something and people start thinking there must be something to it, when it’s complete bullshit,” Mortensen. “I love Pedro and he’s a great guy, but that jury, it was the fastest vote for the Palme d’Or for a movie called ‘Rosetta.’ Unanimous, all nine of them. The president of the jury only gets one vote. All people voted for that movie. So how did [Cronenberg] deprive the Palme d’Or from Pedro? It’s a nonsense story and beneath a great artist like Pedro.”
Cronenberg’s jury did give him Best Director at the awards, where Almodóvar received the night’s only standing ovation. But rumors have persisted that the Spanish filmmaker was furious over the decision. All blood under the bridge, perhaps? Promoting “Pain and Glory” in 2019, Almodóvar told El Pais (translated), “I’ll never be closer [to the Palme] than I was in 1999 with ‘All About My Mother.’ For David Cronenberg, president of that jury, that question will haunt him for life… When you go to a contest, you should be aware that the list of winners is unpredictable, beyond the quality of the films.”
Cronenberg insisted in the 2014 interview that the jury was “not playing politics,” adding, “They wanted to pretend that I forced the jury into this decision in order to tweak the nose of other contemporaries of mine, like Pedro and Jim Jarmusch and John Sayles and others who had films there, but it wasn’t me. I only had one vote, you know? So there was a real disconnect between what was actually going on and what was happening in the press, but that’s Cannes. It always is very, very political, and not only are the French very political, but French cinema politics is even more convoluted and arcane.”
Mortensen, a longtime Cronenberg collaborator with films including “Crimes,” “A Dangerous Method,” “Eastern Promises,” and “A History of Violence,” recently argued that Cronenberg’s 1996 body-horror Cannes shocker was a better film than last year’s similarly themed Palme d’Or winner, “Titane.”
Almodóvar and Cronenberg have both been nominated six times for the Palme d’Or but neither has won. The Dardenne brothers, who have “Tori and Lokita” in competition this year, won the Palme a second time in 2005 for “L’enfant.”
Cronenberg is a Palme contender for “Crimes of the Future.” Read IndieWire’s interview with the director here.
Eric Kohn contributed reporting.
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