The Cannes Film Festival’s top prizewinners have generated more Oscar traction in recent years, as demonstrated by last year’s “Triangle of Sadness” and 2019’s big winner, “Parasite.” (Before those two, you’d have to go back to “The Tree of Life” and “Amour.”) But even after Justine Triet’s wrenchingly played, grippingly fragmented courtroom thriller snagged the Palme d’Or last May, few observers (except perhaps the film’s canny U.S. distributor, Neon) were likely expecting it to become a full-blown art-house juggernaut. Hell, France didn’t even submit “Anatomy of a Fall” for best international feature, a decision that looks increasingly like the greatest unforced error in recent awards-season memory, especially since the official French submission, the roundly admired “The Taste of Things,” ultimately failed to secure a single nomination.
“Anatomy of a Fall,” meanwhile, scored five, including for picture, original screenplay and film editing. Triet landed a nomination from the famously international-minded directors branch, which certainly complicates the facile accusations of sexism that some hardcore “Barbie” fans have flung at the academy in response to Gerwig’s perceived snub. Most excitingly of all, the typically Amerocentric actors branch handed a lead actress nomination to Sandra Hüller (who also probably picked up a few supporting actress votes for her work in “The Zone of Interest”).
Hüller gives a fiercely intelligent, emotionally mercurial performance here as another Sandra, a novelist being tried for her husband’s murder — and also, as it turns out, for the more banal crime of refusing to play the supportive, self-sacrificing wife. “Anatomy” has been shrewdly advertised as a did-she-or-didn’t-she whodunit, but that’s scarcely the only mystery it leaves you pondering. What’s captivating about the fictional Sandra, and about this marvelously slippery thriller as a whole, is how thoroughly they refuse to be pinned down.