Thanks to The Banshees of Inisherin, EO and, to a lesser extent, The Triangle of Sadness, it’s fair to say that when it comes cinematic animals, the past 12 months has really been all about the ass (to the extent that a lookalike of Banshees‘ breakout donkey Jenny even made it on stage at the Oscars).
This year’s Cannes looks set to return the limelight to more established four-legged stars, with dogs having bounded back to the big screen with tail-wagging gusto. And this will likely make life difficult for those sniffing out contenders for the Palm Dog, Cannes’ unofficial awards show celebrating canine performances across the festival’s official selection and various sidebars.
“This Cannes is absolutely chock-a-block with bowzers,” said Toby Rose, Palm Dog founder. “We feel like we like we have an embarrassment of choice — l’embarras du choix — as the French would say.”
And Rose isn’t wrong. Even at the halfway mark of the festival, the main competition selection alone is bursting with “paw”tential, with several central on-screen roles for man’s best friend in some of the most critically-lauded films on show.
In The Zone of Interest from Jonathan Glazer, a spritely and somewhat nosey-Nazi pet, Sandra Hüller’s hündchen and believed to be called Dilla, is a key family member, seen sniffing around the flower beds lovingly tended to by the wife of the Auschwitz camp commandant while blissfully unaware of the horrors taking place over the wall. Perhaps the dog is merely following Ricky Gervais’ advice that one must “do a Holocaust movie” to win an Oscar.
THR also hears also news of a “stunning” performance by a Border Collie in Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, with the director telling THR that the dog is supposed to be the ego of one of the main characters.
Meanwhile, Todd Haynes’ May December features a delightful pair of matching brown hunting dogs, which Julianna Moore and Charles Melton take on plenty of walks.
Aki Kaurismaki’s Fallen Leaves sees the director continues his long pedigree of platforming prominent pooches. This one features a crucial mutt who one of the central characters takes home to care for, filling the void of loneliness. The Finn has history with the Palm Dog, of course, with Laiki from Le Havre winning the competition’s jury prize in 2011. “And Aki claimed it was the best award he won,” recalls Rose/
While Jude Law is undoubtedly the (very) big (and also very smelly) dog as Henry VIII in Karim Ainouz’s regal drama Firebrand, which stars Alicia Vikander, the film does include several period pups, with a member of the royal’s court forever holding one of his many dogs.
And then there’s Ken Loach’s The Old Oak. Loach — already a recipient of the Palm Dogmanitarian award for making three-legged fidos a fixture in his films — comes to Cannes with a drama featuring a delightful mongrel called Lola, who plays Marra, the beloved pet of TJ, who owns The Old Oak, a pub and central setting for the story (and not, as might be assumed, a big tree for the dog to relief herself against). Giving the film added canine kudos, Rose says the actor Dave Turner spent a “lot of time bonding with the dog prior to the shoot… it was very method.”
With Loach bringing his final film to the festival (or at least so he says) and the top Palm Dog prize remaining the one Cannes award he’s yet to claim, Lola and the veteran director could well be the ones to beat this year.
A record-breaking third Palme d’Or and his first Palm Dog? What a way to bowwow out in style.