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Mike Leigh vs. Isabelle Adjani: Berlin Film Festival Gets ‘Outspoken’ President

4 minutes read

Mike Leigh Berlin Film Festival Jury President + Isabelle Adjani Cannes jury clash
Mike Leigh to be Berlin Film Festival Jury President. No Mike Leigh film has taken home the Berlinale’s Golden Bear, but Happy-Go-Lucky was in contention in 2008, eventually earning star Sally Hawkins that year’s Best Actress Silver Bear. More than a decade ago – in 1997 to be exact – Leigh was a jury member at another European film festival, the one in Cannes, where he clashed with Jury President Isabelle Adjani, best known as the star of François Truffaut’s The Story of Adele H., Bruno Nuytten’s Camille Claudel, and Patrice Chéreau’s Queen Margot. The first two titles earned Adjani Best Actress Academy Award nominations; the last two earned her the Best Actress Prix César.

Mike Leigh to head Berlin Film Festival Jury

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Mike Leigh will chair the jury of the 2012 Berlin Film Festival. Among the 68-year-old filmmaker’s best-known efforts are Naked, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Another Year; the Oscar-nominated Secrets & Lies; and the New York Film Critics Circle’s 1999 Best Film winner Topsy-Turvy.

“Over the course of his nearly 40-year film career, Mike Leigh has distinguished himself as one of the most outstanding film-makers of auteur cinema and protagonists of New British Cinema,” the festival said in a (somewhat convoluted) statement. “Leigh portrays British society in a bluntly realistic but humorous style. His films have received countless international awards and several Oscar nominations.”

Oscar ‘nobody, persona non grata’

Regarding those Oscar nominations, on The Guardian/The Observer Mike Leigh wrote the following about his Secrets & Lies experience:

Secrets & Lies then went on to be nominated for five Oscars, my first nominations. We lost out on everything to the blimmin’ [The English Patient], which seems horrid to say now that poor Anthony [Minghella] is dead, but I wasn’t very happy at the time. You get so caught up in the hype of the whole thing when you’re out there in LA that when the big night comes you really want to win, badly. And if not getting the call from Cannes is painful, well, at the Oscars, the minute you haven’t won, you’re nobody, persona non grata. It’s quite amazing.”

Winning some, losing some

In 1993, Mike Leigh won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for Naked, starring David Thewlis. Three years later, his mother-daughter drama Secrets & Lies, featuring Oscar nominees Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste, won the Palme d’Or.

Nearly a decade later, after being snubbed by the powers-that-be at Cannes Vera Drake won the 2004 Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion, in addition to earning Leigh a Best Director BAFTA and Imelda Staunton a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Four years later, Happy-Go-Lucky earned Sally Hawkins the Best Actress Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

And earlier this year, Another Year earned the filmmaker an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Even though his movies are purportedly made without an actual shooting script, Leigh has been shortlisted five times in that particular Oscar category (and after each Oscar night became nobody, persona non grata).

Mike Leigh vs. Isabelle Adjani

And here’s a (maybe) less controversial film news than the online leak of nude Lindsay Lohan pictures: in 1997, Mike Leigh served as a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival, where he found himself at odds with Jury President Isabelle Adjani (Camille Claudel, Queen Margot). In his The Guardian piece, Leigh recalled:

“I was on the jury during Cannes’s 50th birthday, in 1997, the year after Secrets & Lies won. Everyone was brilliant, except for the president, Isabelle Adjani, who’s just not so bright.”

The 1997 Palme d’Or winner was Atom Egoyan’s Canadian drama The Sweet Hereafter. In addition to Adjani and Leigh, the “brilliant” Cannes jury included Gong Li, Nanni Moretti, Tim Burton, Mira Sorvino, and Michael Ondaatje.

The 2012 Berlin Film Festival will be held from Feb. 9–19.

Mike Leigh photo: Gerhard Kassner / Berlin Film Festival.

“Mike Leigh vs. Isabelle Adjani: Berlin Film Festival Gets ‘Outspoken’ President” last updated in June 2018.

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