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Cannes Winners: Stark Abortion Drama Tops

4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu

Cannes is the heart of world cinema. The Oscars are very important in the United States, but globally, it's Cannes,” declared Honorary Palme d'Or winner Jane Fonda upon arriving at the closing-night awards ceremony hosted by German actress Diane Kruger.

Indeed, winners and presenters from around the globe went up onstage at the Grand Théâtre Lumière to either hand out or receive about a dozen prizes for – mostly – some really heavy-duty tales.

Cristian MungiuThe 60th Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or went to Cristian Mungiu's much praised low-budget Romanian drama 4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile / 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (top photo), which depicts the suffering endured by two young Bucharest students both before and after one of them has an illegal back-alley abortion in Nicolae Ceausescu's Communist Romania.

“It seems like a fairy tale,” Mungiu remarked in his acceptance speech. “One year ago we didn't have any idea about this project and some six months ago, we didn't have any money to make it, and finally we were just hoping to be in Cannes in any kind of competition.”

The director also expressed hope that “this award that I'm getting now is going to be of good use for small filmmakers in small countries everywhere, because it looks like you don't necessarily need a big budget and a lot of stars to have your story heard.”

As quoted in The Guardian, jury member and Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk found 4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile “a great film. It was a pleasure to watch every second of it.” The film also won the International Critics' FIPRESCI Prize.

Mungiu received the trophy from Jane Fonda, who stood next to the nervous director looking as proud as if he were her favorite son. Not a bad way to (hopefully) launch an international film career.

The Mourning Forest by Naomi Kawase

Japanese director Naomi Kawase's Mogari no mori / The Mourning Forest (above) was given the (mistitled) Grand Prix, or runner-up award. Kawase's lyrical drama follows a retirement home resident and a caretaker who struggle to overcome the deaths of loved ones.

Through an interpreter, Kawase spoke of “many things that make you hesitate or stumble on your path. At those moments, I believe, you look for something deep within that can restore your confidence and strength. … It can be the wind, the light, the memory of the Ancients which give us their strength. And when you find that foothold in the world, you can be all alone and go on. Thank you for appreciating my film, for recognizing what I wanted to say with it. Thank you very much. This is a wonderful world.”

Silent Light by Carlos Reygadas

Carlos ReygadasThe jury prize was given ex aequo to Carlos Reygadas' (right) Mexican drama Stellet Licht / Silent Light (above, upper photo), about a married Mennonite farmer who falls in love with another woman, and to Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's Persepolis (above, lower photo), an alternately comic and dramatic adaptation of Satrapi's graphic novels about growing up at the time of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After declaring that Persepolis is “universal,” Satrapi dedicated her win “to all Iranians.” (Persepolis had been highly criticized by an organization with ties to Iran's Ministry of Culture.)

Speaking at the laureates' press conference, Reygadas stated that his win was important “for filmmakers all over the world who are interested in a cinema which sometimes departs from the laws of total identification and clarification, a cinema that likes temporary ambiguity, that likes expression using means that are not always the customary ones.”

Michelle Yeoh presented the best director award to American Julian Schnabel for the French-made Le Scaphandre et le papillon / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Based on a memoir by Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (played by Mathieu Amalric), this well-received drama chronicles Bauby's struggles after becoming paralyzed as a result of a stroke he suffered at age 43 in 1995, and how he wrote his memoirs (which became a bestseller in France) by blinking his eyelid.

Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Photo by Etienne George

Schnabel made a point of thanking his actresses, among them Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, and this year's César winner Marina Hands. “As I came up, I wanted to start singing 'Thank goodness [perhaps he meant “heaven”?] for little girls, they grow up…' and I did, because I thought I was making a movie about a paralyzed guy but I realized I was making a film about women.” Others in the Le Scaphandre et le papillon cast are veterans Jean-Pierre Cassel (who died of cancer last April 19) and Max von Sydow.

In his lengthy acceptance speech, Schnabel stated that “many times I've heard that the problem with France is the French, but that's a lie.” And then went on to thank his French distributor and his family, adding that “If I did get the Palme d'Or, I was going to give it to Bernardo Bertolucci.”

Schnabel later interrupted his photo session (which is done onstage) to go back to the podium to thank the co-producer of Le Scaphandre et le papillon, Jon Kilik. (Last year, Kilik's Babel also did quite well at Cannes, winning the best director prize for Alejandro González Iñárritu. The film went on to receive 7 Academy Award nominations.)

Le Scaphandre et le papillon is Schnabel's third feature film. His previous effort, Before Night Falls, was released seven years ago.

The Banishment with Konstantin Lavronenko

Veteran Russian stage actor Konstantin Lavronenko, who plays a troubled husband in the marriage-on-the-rocks drama Izgnanie / The Banishment, was given the best actor award, which was accepted by the film's director, Andreï Zvyagintsev.

Jeon Do-yeon, Song Kang-ho in Secret Sunshine

Jeon Do-yeon was chosen best actress for her performance as a young widow in Lee Chang-dong's South Korean drama Milyang / Secret Sunshine.

Through an interpreter, the visibly moved Jeon said that “I heard that there were bevies of wonderful actresses during the Festival; I hope that I might be able to represent them today. … I thank director Lee Chang-dong, who gave me the opportunity to play this role, and especially the actor Song Kang-ho, thanks to whom I was able to exist. I thank all of you who appreciated this film Secret Sunshine. I will never forget it, for the rest of my life.”

According to Yonhap News, Jeon is only the second South Korean actress to win an award at a top international film festival. The previous one, Kang Soo-yeon, received best actress honors (for Sibaji / Surrogate Mother) at the Venice Film Festival twenty years ago.

Before presenting the best actress trophy, Alain Delon asked for a few moments to remind audience members of Romy Schneider, with whom he worked most famously in La Piscine / The Swimming Pool in 1969, and who (officially) died of cardiac arrest 25 years ago today at age 43. (Some claimed that Schneider committed suicide by taking a lethal cocktail of alcohol and sleeping pills. She had never recovered from the death of her 14-year-old son, who severed an artery while trying to climb a spiked fence in July 1981.)

Fatih Akin

Auf der anderen Seite / The Edge of Heaven, tipped as one of the most likely contenders for the Palme d'Or, received best screenplay honors. Charlotte Rampling handed the prize to director-screenwriter Fatih Akin (above).

After thanking his wife and his crew, Akin added, “I have one message for Turkey [currently undergoing some serious religious-political turmoil]. All is one, united we stand, divided we fall.”

At a previous ceremony, Auf der anderen Seite was given the Ecumenical Prize for skillfully telling “the story of the intersecting destinies in Germany and Turkey of men and women from different backgrounds. It makes the viewer aware of the pain and complexity of the loss of cultural identity and relationships, as well as the valuable cultural exchanges, transitions, and cohabitations possible between these two worlds. Two [sic] other major themes are parent-child relationships, sacrifice, and reconciliation.”

Paranoid Park by Gus Van Sant

A special 60th anniversary prize went to U.S. director Gus Van Sant for Paranoid Park (above), a French-financed, low-budget film made with unknown performers that Van Sant reportedly recruited from MySpace.com. Based on Blake Nelson's novel, Paranoid Park shows how the life of a teenage skateboarder is turned upside down after he accidentally kills a security guard. Back in 2003, Van Sant won the Palme d'Or for the little-seen Elephant.

Ver llover by Elisa Miller

The Palme d'Or for best short film went to Ver llover / Watching It Rain (above), by Mexican filmmaker Elisa Miller . Ver llover revolves around two teenagers who must decide if they'll leave their small Mexican town together or if their relationship will have to come to an end.

Mark Albiston's Run and Anthony Chen's Ah Ma / Grandma received honorable mentions.

Jellyfish by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen

The Caméra d'Or for best first film – a unanimous choice – went to Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen's Meduzot / Jellyfish, beating strong competitor Control (directed by Anton Corbijn), a black-and-white biopic of rock group Joy Division's Ian Curtis, which received an honorable mention. (Jury member Clotilde Courau called it “a black-and-white diamond.”)

“Actually, they told us to write down everything,” Keret remarked, “but it's too exciting to read it. Everything here is so far from our lives. I haven't worn a suit since my Bar Mitzvah.” The nervous director then allowed his “very strong wife” Geffen thank the film's cast, crew, and producers. After Geffen was done, Keret started walking off the stage only to be brought back to pose for the cameras.

Cristian NemescuEarlier in the weekend, the jury for the Un Certain Regard sidebar, led by French filmmaker Pascale Ferran, gave its top prize to another Romanian production, Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit) / California Dreamin' (Endless), which is based on a real incident involving self-righteous American troops and corrupt Romanian authorities during the Kosovo war of 1999.

California Dreamin', Nemescu's first feature film, almost didn't make it to the Un Certain Regard shortlist because the director was killed in an automobile accident last year at age 27, six weeks after finishing production work on the film.

The jury for the Cinéfondation sidebar (for short student films), led by Chinese director Jia Zhang ke, awarded its first prize to Gonzalo Tobal's Argentinian drama Ahora todos parecen contentos / Now Everybody Looks Happy, which follows a man and a teenage girl who run away together. The runner-up was Chen Tao's Ru dao / Way Out, while Hong Sung-Hoon's A Reunion and Pavle Vuckovic's Minus tied for third place.

Jane Fonda, Gilles JacobJane Fonda's special award came as a surprise to the actress. It was presented to her by festival president Gilles Jacob at a gala dinner that followed the Saturday screening of Sidney Lumet's 1957 courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda.

Referring to the anti-Vietnam War, anti-Iraq War actress, Jacob remarked that he “would never have imagined that the Cannes Festival would honor an FBI suspect, one who has at least 20,000 pages in her file.” He then added, “You are a fighter and a winner.”

Fonda accepted the honor by saying in French, “For my father, his films were his way of representing justice, quality and democracy … [I hope that] the United States will again become the country that he stood for.”

Fonda is only the fourth – and the first non-French national – recipient of the festival's Honorary Palme d'Or. Previous winners were directors Alain Resnais and Gérard Oury, and actress Jeanne Moreau.

Other presenters at the closing-night awards ceremony were Marina Hands, Jia Zhangke, Carole Bouquet, Pavel Lungin,, and Jamel Debbouze.

Debbouze took the opportunity to “officially announce that I'm allying myself with Nicholas Sarkozy.” Following much laughter, some applause (from those who knew he was joking), and very loud boos (from those who surely knew he was joking, but who also thought the recently elected right-wing French president deserved nothing better), Debbouze asked the audience to stop (in reference to presidential contender Edouard Balladur's words following his 1995 electoral defeat), explaining “It's good for your health.”

Pause.

“Sarkozy, if you can hear me now, I take back everything I said about you throughout this past year. Whenever you'd like, Mr. Sarkozy, how about us getting together for some republican jogging sessions with [entertainers and Sarkozy supporters] Faudel and Mireille Mathieu in the Bois de Boulogne [a park in the outskirts of Paris, quite popular with foreign-born prostitutes, mainly transvestites and transsexuals].”

That last remark was received by loud applause and cries of “bravo!"

(It should be added that Sarkozy – with the assistance of much of the French media – used his jogging sessions as p.r. tools during his presidential campaign.)

Debbouze finished his intro by saying that film is a “way of fighting, of dreaming,” adding that movie houses should not be seen as just “a place where you go eat popcorn.”

The ceremony itself was a odd mixture of genuine emotion (courtesy of the overwhelmed winners), class, pomposity, and clumsiness.

Although many of the female presenters, winners, and jury members looked stunning, much of the stuff the presenters had to say onstage felt appallingly stilted.

Awkward moments, I assume, were mostly a result of language issues – I don't recall official competition jury president Stephen Frears, who walked onstage with his hands behind his back Á la Napoleon (minus the bicorne), speaking a word of French throughout the proceedings.

Compounding matters, the people behind the cameras failed to capture crucial moments at the event, going for extreme long shots when close-ups were needed, or going for close-ups of one person when the action was taking place elsewhere.

Surprisingly, the much-talked about high-profile American films in competition – Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, David Fincher's Zodiac, James Gray's We Own the Night, and Joel and Ethan Coen's widely praised No Country for Old Men – in addition to Wong Kar Wai's U.S.-set road movie My Blueberry Nights were completely ignored by both the official competition jury and the other award-giving bodies at the festival. Proof positive that Cannes can be a whole lot of things, but Hollywood on the Riviera it ain't.

60th Cannes Film Festival - 2007 Awards

The 60th Cannes Film Festival ran between May 16-27.

The 60th Cannes Film Festival awards were announced on May 27, 2007.

Photos: © AFP / Festival de Cannes

 

Jane Fonda, Cristian Mungiu at Cannes 07

Official Competition:

Palme d'Or for Best Film: 4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile / 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu (Romania)

Grand Prix: Mogari no mori / The Mourning Forest by Naomi Kawase (Japan)

Special Jury Prize (ex aequo): Stellet Licht by Carlos Reygadas (Mexico / France / The Netherlands) and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (France)

Best Dir.: Julian Schnabel for Le Scaphandre et le papillon / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (France)

Best Actor: Konstantin Lavronenko for Izgnanie / The Banishment (Russia)

Alain Delon, Jeon do-yeong at Cannes 07

Best Actress: Jeon do-yeong for Secret Sunshine (South Korea)

Best Scr.: Fatih Akin for Auf der anderen Seite / The Edge of Heaven (Germany / Turkey)

Special 60th Anniversary Award: Gus Van Sant for Paranoid Park (United States / France)

“Vulcain de l'Artiste-Technicien” Prize: Janusz Kaminski for Le Scaphandre et le papillon / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (France)

 

Honorary Palme d'Or: Jane Fonda

 

Palme d'Or for Short Film: Ver llover / Watching It Rain by Elisa Miller (Mexico)

Honorable Mention: Run by Mark Albiston and Ah Ma / Grandma by Anthony Chen

 

Caméra d'Or for First Film: Meduzot / Jellyfish by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen (Israel)

Honorable Mention: Control by Anton Corbijn (United Kingdom)

 

Un Certain Regard

Un Certain Regard Prize - Fondation Groupama Gan pour le Cinéma: California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit) / California Dreamin' (Endless) by Cristian Nemescu (Romania)

Special Jury Prize: Le Rêve de la nuit d'avant / Actrices / Actress by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (France)

Jury Coup de Cœur: Bikur hatizmoret / The Band's Visit by Eran Kolirin (Israel / France)

 

Cinéfondation

1st Prize: Ahora todos parecen contentos / Now Everybody Looks Happy by Gonzalo Tobal (Argentina)

2nd Prize: Ru dao / Way Out by Chen Tao (China)

3rd Prize (ex aequo): A Reunion by Hong Sung-Hoon (South Korea) and Minus by Pavle Vuckovic (Serbia-Montenegro)

 

Directors' Fortnight

Prix Regards Jeunes / Young Eyes Prize: Control by Anton Corbijn (United Kingdom)

Label Europa Cinéma Prize (best European film): Control by Anton Corbijn (United Kingdom)

Prix Art et Essai: Garage by Lenny Abrahamson (Ireland)

Honorable Mention: Control by Anton Corbijn (United Kingdom) and Gegenüber / Counterparts by Jan Bonny (Germany)

 

FIPRESCI (International Film Critics)

Official Competition: 4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile / 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu (Romania)

Un Certain Regard: Bikur hatizmoret / The Band's Visit by Eran Kolirin (Israel / France)

Critics' Week and Directors' Fortnight: Elle s'appelle Sabine / Her Name Is Sabine by Sandrine Bonnaire (France)

 

International Critics' Week Grand Prize: XXY by Lucia Puenzo (Argentina)

SACD - French Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers: Meduzot / Jellyfish by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen (Israel)

SACD Prize for Best Short Film in French: Même pas Mort by Claudine Natkin

Canal + Grand Prize for the Best Short Film: Madame Tutli-Putli by Chris Lavis and Maciek Sczerbowski (Canada)

Kodak Discovery Award for Best Short Film: Um Ramo by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra (Brazil)

 

Ecumenical Jury Prize: Auf der anderen Seite / The Edge of Heaven by Fatih Akin (Germany / Turkey)

Youth Prize: Bikur hatizmoret / The Band's Visit by Eran Kolirin (Israel / France)

French National Education Administration Prize: 4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile / 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu (Romania)

Prix France-Culture for Career Achievement: Rithy Panh “for the intensity of his work and his commitment to the presentation of Cambodia's cinematographic memory"

 

Juries:

Official competition:
Stephen Frears, President (Director - Great Britain)
Maggie Cheung (Actress - Hong Kong)
Toni Collette (Actress - Australia)
Maria de Medeiros (Actress, Director - Portugal)
Sarah Polley (Actress, Director - Canada)
Marco Bellocchio (Director - Italy)
Orhan Pamuk (Writer– Turkey)
Michel Piccoli (Actor, Director - France)
Abderrahmane Sissako (Director - Mauritania)

Cinéfondation and short films:
Jia Zhang ke, President (Director - China)
Niki Karimi (Actress - Iran)
Deborah Nadoolman Landis (Costume designer - USA)
J.M.G. Le Clezio (Writer - France)
Dominik Moll (Director - France)

Un Certain Regard: Pascale Ferran (president), Jasmine Trinca, Cristi Puiu, Kent Jones and Bian Qin.

Caméra d'or: Pavel Lounguine (president), Julie Bertucelli, Clotilde Courau and Renato Berta.

Jane Fonda photo: AFP


         
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