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The Most Memorable LGBTQ+ Films To Ever Come Out of the Cannes Film Festival
April 25, 2022
What's so great about the Cannes Film Festival is that it never feared presenting groundbreaking films. Take the LGBTQ+ community, for instance. For years, Hollywood has been hesitant to produce and showcase films that present or even relate to homosexual relationships, transgender journeys, and the like. The Cannes Film Festival, on the other hand, continues to thrive by putting such feature films at the forefront. They’ve even made the “Queer Palm,” a special award to highlight LGBTQ+ cinematic excellence. Films like Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013) and Carol (2015), have won or been strong contenders for it. They've also become iconic movies in their own right!
Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999)
For a film that premiered back in 1999, Pedro Almodovar's 'Todo Sobre Mi Madre' was pretty out there! The world wasn't used to such sheer LGBTQ+ exposure back then, and yet, the film made waves at the 52nd Cannes Film Festival. Had the Queer Palm been invented then, there's no question this film would've won it, hands down! The movie deals with all sorts of issues related to the LGBTQ+ community, namely faith, existentialism, and the AIDS epidemic. It tells the story of Manuela (played by Cecilia Roth), an Argentine nurse whose late son's heart was to be translated to another man. Throughout her journey, she meets many other characters who are either gay, lesbian, or transgender.
Source: Retro Trailer Archive YouTube Channel
2010 marked the beginning of the Queer Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival and its first-ever recipient was 'Kaboom,' an American dramedy directed by Gregg Araki. The movie tells the story of Smith (played by Thomas Dekker), an 18-year-old film student who, in the middle of discovering his sexual identity, gets caught in a wild goose chase by a bizarre cult. Alongside him is a cast of characters that blur the lines between sexual and gender norms, including his lesbian best friend Stella (Played by Haley Bennett), a married closeted gay man Hunter (played by Jason Olive), and Thor, Smith's straight roommate who often gets into homoerotic situations.
Source: moviemaniacsDE YouTube Channel
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013)
As one of the most memorable films to ever come out of the Cannes Film Festival, it wasn't surprising that 'Blue Is the Warmest Colour' won the coveted Palme d'Or back in 2013. The Abdellatif Kechiche-directed romance film shows the tumultuous love story between the conservative Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) and the openly gay Emma (played by Léa Seydoux). Though it didn't win that year's Queen Palm, the film still left an impact that remains ever-relevant among queer audiences to this day. It also helped Léa Seydoux, one of its lead actresses, rise to international fame, eventually leading her to more covetable roles both in French cinema and Hollywood.
Source: Sundance Now YouTube Channel
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
Academy Award-winning actor, Michael Douglas, stars as the fabulous cam gay icon, Liberace, in the 2013 biographical drama film, 'Behind the Candelabra.' The film premiered back at the 66th Cannes Film Festival and was a strong contender for the Queer Palm in that edition. Based on Scott Thorson's memoir, 'Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace,' the movie sheds light on the famous artist's rocky romance with Thorson, who famously sued Liberace for a whopping $100,000,000 in alimony. It was among the most notorious cases of its kind at the time, eventually changing the public's perception of Liberace through time.
Source: Movieclips Indie YouTube Channel
In 2015, the romantic period drama, 'Carol,' won the Queer Palm award during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival. Months later, the film's lead actress, Cate Blanchett, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Lead Actress. All of this goes to show just how impactful this film was, both at the time and up until now. Set in the 1950s, a staple decade for straight Hollywood-made rom-coms, 'Carol' became one of the first lesbian films to have as much glamour, nostalgia, and romance as most mainstream period pieces. Blanchett stars as the titular Carol, a New York socialite who falls in love with shopgirl Therese, played by Rooney Mara.
Source: StudiocanalUK YouTube Channel
The Lives of Thérèse (2016)
For the first time since its conception, the 2016 Queer Palm award was rewarded to a documentary film—'The Lives of Thérèse.' The feature tells the story of the titular Thérèse Clerc, a French feminist and LGBTQ+ activist. Throughout her life, she has fought for equal rights for her community, as well as for human rights for other marginalized groups. Though the documentary chronicles her many achievements, it mainly focuses on her battle with a terminal illness. And a few weeks before the 69th Canned Film Festival, where the documentary was set to premiere, Clerc passed away. The film then became a stark reminder of her indelible legacy.
Source: Unifrance YouTube Channel
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
At the Cannes Film Festival 2019, there were no other LGBTQ+ films that made waves quite like the women-led period romance drama, 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire.' Directed by Céline Sciamma, she became the first female director to win the Queer Palm. It tells the story of Marianne (played by Noémie Merlant), a French painter in the 18th-century, who was tasked to paint the portrait of Héloïse (played by Adèle Haenel), an engaged society woman who had been living in a convent in Brittany. Throughout their time together, as Marianne struggles to capture Héloïse for her portrait, they fall into a tumultuous love affair.
Source: NEON YouTube Channel
Although 'Titane' failed to win the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival 2021, it did, however, receive the coveted Palme d'Or instead! Its director, Julia Ducournau, then made history as the second female director to win the highest accolade in this international event. 'Titane' is a body horror drama film that stars Agathe Rousselle as 'Alexia/Adrien,' a serial killer who becomes sexually attracted to cars. Over time, her obsession offer vehicles becomes dangerous, particularly to those who try to pick her up. Why? Because Alexia is a serial killer!
Source: Cinematheque Trailers YouTube Channel
Over the years, the Cannes Film Festival has shed light on the excellence of LGBTQ+ cinema. In fact, many exceptional queer films have even premiered and received much-deserved accolades during this annual event!