Cannes: Who Left the Dogs Out?

Ava Dog Still New - H 2017
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

After an outstanding year for Palm Dog contenders in 2016, critics argue that this year's crop of four-legged festival performances have gone astray.

Given 2016’s stellar pack of canine stars — including Paterson’s British bulldog, I, Daniel Blake’s three-legged mongrel and the fart-propelled corgis of The BFG — it was always going be difficult for this year’s Cannes to maintain the same cinematic pedigree.

Indeed, as the festival reaches its midpoint, the four-legged frontrunners for the coveted Palm Dog award appear to be muzzled, with considerably less fetching performances on offer on the Croisette.

That said, The Hollywood Reporter’s critics have singled out a “magnificent” greyhound that is photographed by Isabelle Huppert in Hong Sang-soo’s Claire’s Camera, plus an “adorable grey whippet” in Ruben Ostlund’s competition entry The Square, an animal that arguably gets more screen time than Dominic West (but less than a Bonobo monkey).

Toby Rose, the founder of the Palm Dog, says the German shepherd in Critics’ Week title Ava is a “real black beauty,” while over in the market (the stray mutts of Marche title Mid Road Gang shared the prize in 2007, should anyone ask), he points to the famed kelpie in Australian family drama prequel Red Dog — True Blue.

But just as awards analysts thought they were off the scent for a favorite of the caliber of Paterson’s Nellie (who last year became the Palm Dog’s first post-canus winner, having died a couple of months before Cannes), Rose throws the competition a bone.

“Bruno the Poodle from Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories has galloped in to up the ante,” he says.

Whether Bruno can keep his victory tail wagging until the awards ceremony on Friday remains to be seen, but it’s clear that 2016’s performing pooches are a breed apart from the offerings this time around.

Admits Rose: “In the spirit of generosity, the four-legged have deferred to their biped acting colleagues and generously afforded them the lion’s share of the spotlight.”