Manoel de Oliveira Cannes Homage

Manoel de OliveiraWhenever I'm looking for information on film festivals from around the world, the first thing I notice is that English-language news, especially those from American-based sources, focus almost exclusively on Hollywood productions and talent. The rest of the film world is all but inexistent.

That's hardly the case with festival news reports from sources in other languages. So, after an unproductive English-language search for soon-to-be centenarian filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira's Cannes homage earlier today at the Grand Théâtre Lumière du Palais des Festivals, I found quite a bit of information in French.

De Oliveira was honored with a Palme d'Or for his body of work, which spans more than five decades. Born on December 12, 1908, in the northern Portuguese city of Porto, de Oliveira began his directorial film career in earnest in the mid-1950s. (Prior to that, he'd made a few shorts in the 1930s and one feature in the early 1940s.) Among his most notable films are Belle toujours (2006), starring Bulle Ogier and Michel Piccoli; Espelho Mágico / Magic Mirror (2005), with Leonor Silveira; La Lettre / The Letter (1994), with Chiara Mastroianni; A Divina Comédia / The Divine Comedy (1991), with Maria de Medeiros; and Os Canibais / The Cannibals (1988), also with Leonor Silveira.

His latest film, Cristóvão Colombo - O Enigma / Christopher Columbus, The Enigma, was screened at film festivals and had its Portuguese premiere last year, and he is reportedly working on two productions to be released later this year or in early 2009. In the U.S., the filmmaker has been honored with a retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Cinématek and at UCLA.

The Cannes homage began with a screening of Une journée dans la vie de Manoel de Oliveira / A Day in the Life of Manoel de Oliveira, a short directed by festival president Gilles Jacob. De Oliveira's first effort, Douro, Faina Fluvial / Labor on the Douro River, a 1931 documentary short filmed near his hometown, closed the ceremony. Among those present were the Cannes jurors, headed by Sean Penn, and Clint Eastwood.

De Oliveira declared himself “very touched by the Palme d'Or that I've finally been given,” adding that he preferred to win the prize “this way because I'm not very fond of competitions.” He also paid homage to various personalities of the film world, especially “the unforgettable Henri Langlois,” founder of the Cinémathèque Française, and quoted Federico Fellini, who told screenwriter Tonino Guerra, in regard to films d'auteur, “We build planes but we don't have airports.”

De Oliveira then added, “The airports are the festivals. And the Cannes Festival is the most beautiful of airports.”

Manoel de Oliveira quotes: Le Point

Photos of the ceremony can be found at Pure People.

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