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Cannes: Every Palme d’Or Winner of the 1970s, Ranked

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Robert De Niro in a movie theater in Taxi Driver

When the Cannes Film Festival first introduced the Palme d’Or, or Golden Palm, award in 1955, it became the highest ranking award at the festival. It is now regarded as one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry. Many filmmakers, regardless of whether they are new to the industry or not, hope to show their movie at this festival, and they all hope for the best awards they can get. However, usually only one movie will win this honor, though occasionally there may be two winners in one year due to a tie. The last time there were two winners in one year, however, was 1997.

The Palme d’Or has not always gone by that name. When the festival first began, the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film award was the highest, which was then renamed. However, for a brief moment, the Grand Prix was brought back and replaced the Palme d’Or from 1964 to 1975. Since these were merely two different names for the same award, the films that won in those eleven years under a different title and the films that won it before 1955 are all held in the same regard. Regardless of the title of the award during the 1970s, these were the movies which took home arguably the most coveted prize in cinema, and were the best of the best in their years.

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The Hireling is one of two to win the award in 1973. It is about former sergeant-major Ledbetter and how he is getting on after the end of World War I. He acts as a chauffeur for the recently widowed Lady Franklin as she is discharged from a mental clinic only to be hired to take her on outings, meaning they spend a lot of time together as she slowly recovers from her depression. One night, he brings her to a boxing match he helps run, where they meet former officer Cantrip, who is struggling to recover from the war just like Ledbetter. Things don’t go in Ledbetter’s favor though when Lady Franklin becomes romantically interested in Cantrip. While The Hireling is a sometimes beautiful meditation on loneliness, Alan Bridges’ film has largely been forgotten in film history.

In 1977, Padre Padrone won the Palme d’Or. The film takes from Italian neo-realism in its documentary-style approach, as if documenting the life of the fictional character Siligo. He is pulled from school by his father to tend to their herd of sheep, suffering under his close watch and sadistic behavior. While spending 14 years in isolation watching the sheep in the mountains, he begins to discover things and slowly starts rebelling against his father until he is called for military service. There, he discovers many wonderful things about the world, and is determined not to let his father control him anymore when he returns home.

Related: Triangle of Sadness Wins 2022 Palme d’Or; Other Winners from 75th Cannes Film Festival

The Palme d’Or was awarded to Chronicle of the Years of Fire in 1975. The film is an Algerian historical drama chronicling the Algerian War of Independence, but seen through the eyes of a peasant. The war was fought between France and Algeria from 1954 to 1962, resulting in the independence of Algeria. The war was an important moment of decolonization, and one with a lot of conflict (something seen in the 1966 masterpiece The Battle of Algiers). Not only was Algeria fighting against France for independence, but it became a civil war too, as some communities didn’t want independence, or didn’t think the effort was worth it. Seeing the war through the eyes of a peasant really brings to light the intricacies and hardships they had to endure for nearly a decade.

Scarecrow is the second winner from 1973. Max Millan, an ex-convict, and Francis “Lion” Delbuchi, an ex-sailor, meet each other on the road in California. There, they agree to become partners and open up a car wash once they reach their final destination in Pittsburgh, where all of Max’s money is. However, Lion had been traveling to reach Detroit to see the child he has never met and hopes to make amends with his wife Annie. After Max agrees to make a detour, they travel together, going through many trials and mishaps as they grow close to each other as friends. Scarecrow is now one of the most underrated films of the ’70s, and has incredible performances from Gene Hackman and Al Pacino.

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