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Family Conflict + Aki Kaurismäki: Cannes Winners

Jane Fonda Catherine Deneuve Robert De Niro Cannes Film Festival
Family conflict at the core of Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or-winning psychological drama The Tree of Life. Pictured above: Maïwenn, Mélanie Laurent, Kirsten Dunst, Edgar Ramírez, Marisa Paredes, Dede Gardner, Pablo Giorgelli, Bill Pohlad, Jean Dujardin, Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Nicole Garcia, Jane Fonda, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Nicolas Winding Refn, Robert De Niro, Maryna Vroda
Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

There were several worthwhile quotes at the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or ceremony held earlier today at the Grand Théâtre Lumière. Perhaps most memorable among those was a bit found in Robert De Niro’s introductory speech, in French: the Official Competition Jury President thanked his jury champignons (mushrooms) – among them Johnnie To, Jude Law, Uma Thurman, and Olivier Assayas – meaning his compagnons (peers).

Even funnier – and infinitely more charming – than De Niro was Caméra d’Or presenter Marisa Paredes, who hilariously tried to translate into French bits from the (Spanish-language) speech of Argentinean winner Pablo Giorgelli (for Las acacias).

Probably not wanting to take any chances, Best Actress winner Kirsten Dunst used her native English to thank festival organizers for allowing Lars von Trier’s Melancholia to remain in competition despite the furor over von Trier’s jokes about his Hitler “sympathies.” Dunst also thanked her director for allowing her to be “so brave, so free.”

Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin – for The Artist – received a long standing ovation, whereas Terrence Malick didn’t get one. That’s because Malick was nowhere to be seen when The Tree of Life was announced as this year’s Palme d’Or winner.

The Palme d’Or audience, in fact, was audibly quite star-struck. Jean Dujardin, jury members Jude Law and Uma Thurman, popular French actress-turned-filmmaker Jury Prize winner Maïwenn (for Polisse), and Ryan Gosling (who was mentioned in Best Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s acceptance speech) received much louder applause than, say, a couple of De Niro’s “mushrooms,” Argentinean actress Martina Gusman and Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To.

The introductions were quite verbose, featuring quotes by the likes of Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine (explaining why he makes movies: “That’s all I know how to do”) and (apparently sexist) British author Oscar Wilde (“There are no actors, only actresses”). Jane Fonda didn’t quote anyone that I can remember, but she went on about how she could relate to the anxiety those in competition were feeling at that moment.

Winners, for their part, talked at length when they felt like it without being cut off by the orchestra. For instance, Nicolas Winding Refn thanked everyone and his mother, and even got to crack jokes about the jury’s wisdom in selecting him as the festival’s Best Director. (At times, I missed the Oscar’s cutthroat orchestra.)

Later on, at a post-awards press conference, De Niro said:

“Sometimes we had different tastes but we really enjoyed ourselves. I made some new friends. When you make a film, the drama has to be happening in front of the screen. Not behind it. That is how it was for us…. There were some intense debates over a number of films, three in particular: Pater, Sleeping Beauty, and Le Havre. But Habemus Papam and The Skin I Live In also stimulated discussion.”

Intense debates or no, none of those films received a single award from the Official Competition jury. In other words, De Niro’s remarks were clearly supposed to soothe bruised egos.

As for Melancholia, Olivier Assayas told journalists that “it is one of [von Trier’s] best films. We all agreed about the condemnation of his comments made during his press conference. But the film is very well acted, very well written; it’s a great work.”

Palme d’Or: The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

Grand Prix (tie): The Kid with a Bike, Luc and Jean Dardenne, and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Jury Prize: Polisse, Maiwenn

Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia

Best Screenplay: Joseph Cedar, Footnote

Best Short Film: Cross Country, Maryna Vroda

Camera d’Or: Las acacias, Pablo Giorgelli


Source for De Niro’s and Assayas’ quotes:

Photo: © Cannes Film Festival / AFP

Cinéfondation winner

Doroteya Droumeva’s Der Brief / The Letter (Germany), about a pregnant woman’s mysterious letter, was chosen as the winner at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation Awards during a ceremony held at the Buñuel Theatre.

The Cinéfondation and Short Films Jury — ;Julie Gayet, Jessica Hausner, Corneliu Porumboiu, João Pedro Rodrigues and President Michel Gondry — awarded the runner-up prize to Kamal Lazraq’s DrariFly by Night (South Korea).

The winning films will receive €15,000 for the First Prize, €11,250 for the Second and €7,500 for the Third.

Sixteen student films from Asia, the Americas, and Europe were in the running this year. They were selected from 1,600 entries.

Le Havre Aki Kaurismäki
Aki Kaurismäki drama Le Havre.

Aki Kaurismäki drama ‘Le Havre’ + Mohammed Rasoulof: Early Cannes Winners

Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, about an author-turned-shoeshiner (André Wilms) who tries to assist a young African immigrant pursued by France’s immigration police, has won the International Federation of Film Critics’ FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film in the Official Competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Other FIPRESCI winners were Pierre Schoeller’s L’exercice de l’Etat / The Minister in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter in the Semaine de la Critique sidebar. Additionally, Take Shelter won the Semaine de la Critique jury’s Grand Prix and the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques’ Prix SACD as well.

The Minister chronicles the struggles of France’s Minister of Transportation (Olivier Gourmet) while trying to deal with a political crisis. In Take Shelter, a man (Michael Shannon) has visions of the apocalypse and wonders if it’s time to get ready for it.

Headed by Emir Kusturica, the Un Certain Regard jury picked both Kim Ki-Duk’s autobiographical documentary Arirang and Andreas Dresen Halt auf freier Strecke / Stopped on Track as the two Best Films in that sidebar.

The Special Jury Prize went to Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Elena, while Mohammad Rasoulof won the Best Director award for Au Revoir. Several months ago, Rasoulof and fellow filmmaker Jafar Panahi were sentenced to six-year jail sentences by Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.

Photo: Cannes Film Festival.

Dean Lotz Charlie Keegan Skoonheid Beauty
Deon Lotz, Charlie Keegan, Skoonheid / Beauty.

Oliver Hermanus’ South African drama Skoonheid / Beauty, reportedly the first Afrikaans-language film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival, won the Queer Palm, given to the best Cannes film dealing with what some like to call “queer” – i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender – issues. Skoonheid was presented in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

In the film, a married, middle-aged South African man (Deon Lotz) is forced to confront his latent homosexuality after he becomes obsessed with the 23-year-old son (Charlie Keegan) of a friend. Come to think of it, let me rephrase that: when he falls for a much younger man, a married Afrikaner must confront his not-so-latent homosexuality – I mean, the guy takes part in gay orgies with his fellow deeply closeted buddies while gay porn is playing on television. Where’s the “latency” there?

Photo: Cannes Film Festival.

Palme d’Or Predictions: Terrence Malick & Jean Dujardin

Who’ll take home the 2011 Palme d’Or?

I wonder if Little Fockers star and Official Competition jury president Robert De Niro, and fellow jury members Martina Gusman, Olivier Assayas, Johnnie To, Jude Law, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Uma Thurman, Linn Ullmann, and Nansun Shi have any idea themselves. (See further below list of Cannes 2011 awards predictions.)

Strong Palme d’Or possibilities include Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In, Michel HazanaviciusThe Artist, and Radu Mihaileanu’s The Source. That’s six out of twenty films.

And I could have easily listed at least four or five more, e.g., Jean and Luc Dardenne’s The Kid with a Bike, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, and, tasteless jokes or no, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.

Best Actor possibilities include Jean Dujardin for The Artist, Shlomo Bar Aba and Lior Ashkenazi for Footnote, Brad Pitt for The Tree of Life, Ryan Gosling for Drive, Michael Fuith for Michael, André Wilms for Le Havre, and Nanni Moretti for Habemus Papam.

Top Best Actress contenders include Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin, Emily Browning for Sleeping Beauty, Cécile de France for The Kid with a Bike, Leila Bekhti for The Source, and Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg for Melancholia.

The problem when it comes to guessing winners at film festivals is that juries are composed of only about eight or so individuals. In other words, there’s little room for a “mainstream common denominator” to come out victorious as is the case with most award-voting bodies. Things could go the way of jury president De Niro (much like last year’s Venice Film Festival winners reflected jury president Quentin Tarantino’s personal likes) – or not.

Also, unlike, say, the Academy Award voters, festival juries tend to spread their love around. For instance, if a movie wins the Palme d’Or, it won’t take the Best Director prize as well.

Anyhow, on the next page are my totally unscientific Cannes 2011 predictions. See link below.

Photo: The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, The Artist

Palme d’Or: Le Havre

Runner up: See Grand Prix

Grand Prix: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Runner up: See Jury Prize

Jury Prize: The Source

Runner-up: The Kid with a Bike

Best Director: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Runner up: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Runners-up: Shlomo Bar Aba and Lior Ashkenazi for Footnote

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Runner up: Cécile de France for The Kid with a Bike

Best Screenplay: Footnote, Joseph Cedar

Runner up: Aki Kaurismäki, Le Havre

Photo: Cannes Film Festival.

David Cronenberg & Roman Polanski: Venice Film Festival

Roman Polanski’s Carnage, starring Oscar winners Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, and Oscar nominee John C. Reilly; David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, with Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, and Keira Knightley as the woman in-between; and Aleksandr Sokurov’s Faust, featuring Johannes Zeiler in the title role and veteran Hanna Schygulla, have been “secured” for the 68th Venice Film Festival, according to Nick Vivarelli in Variety.

The Venice Film Festival’s website makes no mention of any titles as yet, but Variety affirms that two other films to be screened at the festival are:

Other possibilities include Walter SallesOn the Road, starring Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley, and Garrett Hedlund; Luc Besson’s The Lady, starring Michelle Yeoh; Alex de la Iglesia’s La chispa de la vida; Cristina Comencini’s Quando la notte; and Johnnie To’s Life Without Principle and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.

Also: Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and Haywire; Yorgos Lanthimos’ Alps; Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and The Adventures of Tin-Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn; Alexander Payne’s George Clooney vehicle The Descendants; and Clooney’s political thriller Ides of March, starring Ryan Gosling.

And more: Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights; Brillante Mendoza’s Prey, starring Isabelle Huppert; Steve McQueen’s Shame; Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea; and Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, a Bollywoodized adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which Roman Polanski coincidentally filmed (minus the Bollywood part) as Tess in 1979. Slumdog Millionaire‘s Freida Pinto stars in Trishna.

And the following documentaries: Cameron Crowe’s PJ20, about the rock band Pearl Jam; Jonathan Demme’s untitled film on Hurricane Katrina; and Fatih Akin’s Garbage in the Garden of Eden, in which locals in a Turkish Black Sea village “struggle with the government’s decision to turn their community into a garbage dump,” as per the IMDb synopsis. (I thought the Garden of Eden was supposed to have been located in today’s Iraq, not Turkey.)

Now, it remains to be seen how many of the unconfirmed Venice-bound films will end up instead at the Toronto Film Festival.

Venice 2011 runs August 31-September 10.

Photo: A Dangerous Method (Universal Pictures)

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