On Saturday, the Cannes Film Festival jury will unveil the winners of this year’s festival, including the 2023 Palme d’Or, but for Cannes festival regulars, and animal lovers everywhere, the true highlight of any Croisette visit is the Palm Dog, the unofficial awards show celebrating canine performances across the festival’s official selection and various sidebars.
This year’s top prize went to Messi, the border collie who plays Snoop in Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, with the jury praising a doggie performance “that covers the gambit… one of the best we’ve ever seen.” Speaking to (whose coverage had mentioned Messi as a Palm Dog frontrunner), Triet said the character of Snoop “was not just another character or some animal running around [but] as much a part of the film’s ensemble as any of the other actors.”
What used to be an inside joke has become, in its 22nd year, a Cannes institution, and this year’s Palm Dog “gala,” held at the Long Beach restaurant Friday afternoon, was a packed affair, complete with corporate sponsor (cryptocurrency company Dogami) with multiple camera crews attending as well as several canine celebs, including a stunning Samoyed, a beauty of a Border Collie and a mildly petulant Pitbull (who obviously disapproved of that bitch Samoyed trying to steal the show).
The Palm Dog is “the Met Gala” of movie dog shows, noted The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw, although he suggested: “The Met Gala is not as exciting, not as interesting, not as glamorous and frankly, not as important [as the Palm Dog.]”
In terms of canine performances, this year’s Cannes lineup was the most competitive yet, said Palm Dog founder Toby Rose. Forced to choose between a “veritable tsunami of dog performances” on screen, Rose said the Palm Dog jury created three new categories: The Mutt Moment, for best dog cameo, which went to a four-legged walk-on performance in Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera, a “highly commended canine” award for the hound Susie in Stéphan Castang’s Vincent Must Die, and a lifetime achievement award for British director Ken Loach for celebrating “the bond between human and animals and for canines in particular.” Loach, already a recipient of the Palm Dogmanitarian award for making three-legged fidos a fixture in his films, gave a prime place in his most recent Cannes entry, The Old Oak to a delightful mongrel called Lola, who plays Marra, beloved pet of TJ, who owns The Old Oak, a pub and central setting for the story. The film’s star, actor Dave Turner, and Lola, accepted the prize live via Zoom.
“It’s a socialist dog. A dog of the left,” said Bradshaw, commenting on Lola’s performance. “As a member of the Guardian, I instinctively endorsed this dog.”
Alma, the mutt who plays Chaplin in Aki Kaurismäki‘s Fallen Leaves lapped up the Grand Jury prize, with the film’s human stars, Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen, on hand to accept the honorary dog collar. “In the spirit of Aki Kaurismäki, there is not much to say,” noted Pöysti, choosing to go with an honorary “Woof” or, as they say in Finland, “How!” Fallen Leaves is the second Kaurismäki will to score a Palm Dog, after Laiki from Le Havre won the competition’s jury prize in 2011. “Aki claimed it was the best award he won,” recalled Palm Dog founder Toby Rose.
Animal lover and activist Isabella Rossellini, a co-star of La Chimera, received this year’s Palm Dogmanitarian award for her activist work on behalf of canines.