School film wins Palme d’Or: French drama ‘The Class’
Laurent Cantet’s “school film” The Class was the Palme d’Or winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which ran May 14–25. Matteo Garrone’s Cosa Nostra thriller Gomorrah was the runner-up entry, winning the Grand Prix. The Best director was Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Three Monkeys.
The Jury Prize went to Paolo Sorrentino’s political satire Il Divo, starring Toni Servillo as a seven-time Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, known both for his ruthless acumen for self-preservation and unsavory connections to the mafia – qualities enthusiastically embraced by millions of Italians, as Andreotti served a total of seven terms.
Benicio Del Toro was named Best Actor for his portrayal of far-left revolutionary Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s two-part historical drama Che, while Brazilian actress Sandra Corveloni was the Best Actress for Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas’ Linha de Passe, a socially conscious drama in which she plays the impoverished mother raising four boys (one of them Central Station‘s Vinícius de Oliveira) – each the product of her liaisons with different men – in the outskirts of São Paulo.
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne won the Best Screenplay award for Lorna’s Silence / Le Silence de Lorna.
The Career Palme d’Or went to Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, who will be turning 100 years old next December. (More on de Oliveira further below.)
French legend Catherine Deneuve, whose credits range from Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour to François Ozon’s 8 Women, and U.S. actor/director Clint Eastwood, best known for his Westerns (e.g., Sergio Leone’s The Good the Bad and the Ugly; Unforgiven, which earned him a Best Director Academy Award) were the recipients of the Prize of the 61st Cannes Film Festival.
British director Steve McQueen – no relation to the 1960s and 1970s Hollywood star of the same name – won the Caméra d’Or for his political drama Hunger, starring Michael Fassbender.
Among the Palme d’Or competition films left empty-handed were Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Story, Lucretia Martel - La Mujer sin cabeza, Pablo Trapero’s Leonera, and Wim Wenders’ The Palermo Shooting.
The Palme d’Or Jury consisted of the following: Actor-directors Sean Penn (President) and Sergio Castellitto; actresses Jeanne Balibar, Alexandra Maria Lara, and Natalie Portman; directors Rachid Bouchareb, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Alfonso Cuarón; and author Marjane Satrapi.
Out of Competition screenings – as usual, focused on Hollywood-connected fare – included Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Manoel de Oliveira Cannes homage
As usual, English-language news sources, especially those based in the United States, have focused almost exclusively on Hollywood productions and talent at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The rest of the film world is all but inexistent.
That’s hardly the case with festival news reports from sources in other languages. That’s where you’ll find details about Cannes’ career homage to soon-to-be centenarian Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, whose body of work spans more than five decades.
Born on Dec. 12, 1908, in Porto, de Oliveira began directing a few shorts in the 1930s and, in the following decade, one feature. His filmmaking career took off in the mid-1970s, when he was already in his 60s.
Titles include The Cannibals / Os Canibais (1988), also with Leonor Silveira; The Divine Comedy / A Divina Comédia (1991), with Maria de Medeiros; The Fifth Empire / O Quinto Império - Ontem Como Hoje, with Ricardo Trêpa; and Belle toujours (2006), with veterans Bulle Ogier and Michel Piccoli.
His latest film, Christopher Columbus: The Enigma / Cristóvão Colombo - O Enigma, was screened at festivals and had its Portuguese premiere last year. At age 99, he is reportedly working on two productions to be released either later this year or in early 2009.
The Cannes homage began with a screening of A Day in the Life of Manoel de Oliveira / Une journée dans la vie de Manoel de Oliveira, a short directed by festival president Gilles Jacob. De Oliveira’s first effort, Labor on the Douro River / Douro, Faina Fluvial, a 1931 documentary short filmed near his hometown, closed the ceremony.
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, among them “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.”
Cannes Classics: Restored ‘Lola Montès’ + Warner Bros. homage
The 2008 Cannes Classics highlight is the presentation of a restored Technicolor print of Max Ophüls’ 1955 drama Lola Montès, starring Martine Carol, Anton Walbrook, and Peter Ustinov. The 1955 drama will be screened at the Cinémathèque Française on May 17.
Other noteworthy screenings include the following:
- A series on documentaries about cinema, among them James Chressanthis’ No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008), about Hungarian-born, Hollywood-based cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs (Shampoo, New York New York) and Vilmos Zsigmond (The Sugarland Express, Close Encounters of the Third Kind).
- Restored prints of Jean Cocteau’s fantasy classic Orpheus / Orphée (1949), starring Jean Marais and Maria Casarès; Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fantasy/drama Santa Sangre (1989), starring the filmmaker’s son, Axel Jodorowsky; and Paul Newman’s family/psychological drama The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), starring Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, and the couple’s daughter, Neil Potts.
- David Lean centenary celebration featuring two of the director’s best – but lesser-known – efforts: the family drama This Happy Breed (1944), starring Celia Johnson and Robert Newton; and The Passionate Friends (1949), a romantic drama starring the director’s then-wife, Ann Todd, Claude Rains, and Trevor Howard.
- A Warner Bros. film series – strangely, focusing post-1960 releases. Featured are star such as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, 1962), Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (Captain Blood, 1935), Paul Muni and Glenda Farrell (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, 1932), Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal (What’s Up Doc?, 1971), Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde, 1967), Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn (Blazing Saddles, 1974), and Prize of the 61st Cannes Film Festival recipient Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry, 1971).
1968: 40 years later
Another Cannes Classics series pays homage to the 1968 festival, which was cut short as a result of the student protests sweeping France at the time. Five of the movies not shown at Cannes 1968 will be screened at Cannes 2008:
- Peppermint Frappé, dir.: Carlos Saura (Spain).
- 13 jours en France, dir.: Claude Lelouch (France).
- Anna Karenina, dir.: Aleksandr Zarkhi (USSR).
- The Long Day’s Dying, dir.: Peter Collinson (U.K.).
- 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman, dir.: Dominique Delouche (France).
Carlos Saura, Claude Lelouch, and Dominique Delouche are expected to attend the screening of their films.
“There were moments of high comedy: when the festival organisers attempted to show Carlos Saura’s Peppermint Frappé, starring Geraldine Chaplin, the actress, together with [François] Truffaut, clung to the curtain to try to prevent it rising and stop the screening, but were soon hoisted in the direction of the ceiling. The mechanically controlled drapes began to move and the audience was amazed to witness the protesters literally swing from the sashes, Henri Behar wrote in his history of the festival.”
Margherita Buy & Toni Servillo among Italian film critics’ winners
From Cannes to Sicily: Paolo Virzì was the top filmmaker – there’s not Best Film category – at the National Union of Italian Film Journalists’ Nastri d’Argento (Silver Ribbons) ceremony, held on June 14 at the Teatro Antico di Taormina in Sicily.
Virzì was named Best Director for A Whole Life Ahead / Tutta la vita davanti, about a Philosophy graduate (Isabella Ragonese) struggling to eke out a living in crisis-plagued, early 21st-century Italy. That helps to explain how a nice girl like her ends up toiling away at a madhouse-like call center. A Whole Life Ahead also earned Sabrina Ferilli the Best Supporting Actress Nastro d’Argento.
Toni Servillo was the Italian Film Journalists’ Best Actor for his performance as an unemotional police detective investigating the murder of a young woman in Andrea Molaioli’s directorial feature debut, The Girl by the Lake / La ragazza del lago, which also topped the Best New Director and Best Screenplay (Sandro Petraglia) categories.
Margherita Buy won Best Actress for Silvio Soldini’s psychological/socially conscious drama Days and Clouds / Giorni e nuvole, in which she plays a well-to-do Genoan denizen whose marriage begins to crumble after her businessman husband (Antonio Albanese) loses his job.
Below is a partial list of this year’s other Nastri d’Argento winners.
Best European Film: Irina Palm - Sam Garbarski.
Best Non-European Film: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead - Sidney Lumet.
Best Supporting Actor: Alessandro Gassman - Caos calmo.
Best Documentary: Biùtiful càuntri - Esmeralda Calabria, Andrea D’Ambrosio & Peppe Ruggiero.
Best Cinematography: Arnaldo Catinari - I demoni di San Pietroburgo & Parlami d’amore.
Best Editing: Mirco Garrone - My Brother Is an Only Child.
Best Score: Paolo Buonvino - Caos calmo.
Special Nastri d’Argento
Piero De Bernardi.
Russian drama ‘Mukha’ tops Shanghai Film Festival
The top pick at this year’s Shanghai Film Festival was Vladimir Kott’s Russian drama Mukha. The director’s feature film debut, Mukha centers on a truck driver (Aleksey Kravchenko) who, after receiving a telegram from a former lover he doesn’t remember (shades of Letter from an Unknown Woman), discovers he is the father of a teenager (Aleksandra Tyuftey).
Of note, Wong Kar-Wai replaced the recently deceased Anthony Minghella (Best Director Oscar winner for The English Patient, 1996) as head of this year’s Shanghai jury.
Below are a few more Shanghai Film Festival winners:
Jury Grand Prix: Old Fish (China), dir.: Gao Qunshu.
Director: Maris Martinsons, Loss (Lithuania).
Actor: Ma Guowei, Old Fish.
Actress: Emilia Vasaryova, Vaclav (Czech Republic).
Screenplay: Marek Epstein, Vaclav.
Cinematography: Florian Schilling, My Mother’s Tears (Germany).
Music: Andrius Mamontovas, Loss.
Adam Beach at Media That Matters Film Festival awards ceremony
Flags of Our Fathers actor Adam Beach will be on hand at the Media That Matters Film Festival awards ceremony in New York City on May 29.
According to its website, the Media That Matters Film Festival “is the premier showcase for short films on the most important topics of the day. … From gay rights to global warming, the jury-selected collection represents the work of a diverse group of independent filmmakers, many of whom are under 21.”
A number of shorts are available on their website, among them:
- Guerrilla News Network’s CopWatch: “Fed up with police brutality, the organization ‘Copwatch’ decided to keep an eye on big brother. This short film shows how peaceful observation of police behavior can change the way a neighborhood and a police force deal with one another.”
- Josh Holst’s Esmeraldas: Petroleum and Poverty: “Esmeraldas documents the intense human suffering that occurred when a Texaco oil refinery exploded and destroyed an Afro-Ecuadorian community.”
- Vance Malone’s Permission: “[If you’re gay,] whose permission would you need to get married to the person you love?”
Student Academy Award winners announced
Eleven students from eight U.S. colleges and universities have been named winners in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 35th Student Academy Awards competition. Although each winner will receive an award, their placement – Gold, Silver, or Bronze – will not be revealed until the awards presentation on June 7 at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
Additionally, one film student from Germany has been selected to receive this year’s Honorary Foreign Film award.
In addition to a trophy, Gold Medal winners will receive $5,000, Silver Medal winners will receive $3,000, Bronze Medal winners will receive $2,000, and the Honorary Foreign Film winner will receive $1,000.
Before the presentation, the various winners will take part in a weeklong series of industry-related activities and social events.
The winners are the following (listed alphabetically by film title within category):
Circles of Confusion, Phoebe Tooke.
Viola: The Traveling Rooms of a Little Giant, Shih-Ting Hung.
Simulacra, Tatchapon Lertwirojkul.
The Visionary, Evan Mayfield.
Zoologic, Nicole Mitchell.
As We Forgive, Laura Waters Hinson.
If a Body Meet a Body, Brian Davis.
Unattached, J.J. Adler.
A Day’s Work, Rajeev Dassani.
Pitstop, Melanie McGraw.
The State of Sunshine, Z. Eric Yang.
Honorary Foreign Film
On the Line / Auf der Strecke, Reto Caffi.
As per the Academy’s press release, the Student Academy Awards were established in 1972 “to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level.” Past Student Academy Award winners have gone on to receive 35 Oscar nominations and have won or shared six Academy Awards.
Two former Student Academy Award winners were nominees in the Documentary Short Subject category at the 2008 Academy Awards: James Longley and Amanda Micheli (with Isabel Vega) for, respectively, Sari’s Mother and The Crown / La Corona.
Tickets for the 35th Annual Student Academy Awards presentation ceremony, at which the Gold Medal-winning films and the Honorary Foreign Film will be screened in their entirety, are free and currently available. For more information, visit the Academy’s website or call (310) 247-3000, ext. 130.
Tribeca Film Festival winners: Pre-teen vampire horror drama tops
Held April 23–May 4 in New York City, this year’s Tribeca Film Festival has selected Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish pre-teen vampire horror/psychological drama Let the Right One In / Lat den rätte komma in as its Best Narrative Feature.
Set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in the 1980s, Let the Right One In stars newcomer Kåre Hedebrant as a 12-year-old bullying victim who becomes friends with a child vampire (Lina Leandersson). John Ajvide Lindqvist adapted his own 2004 novel.
Below is a partial list of other Tribeca 2008 winners.
New Narrative Filmmaker: My Marlon and Brando / Gitmek, dir.: Hüseyin Karabey (Turkey / The Netherlands / U.K.).
Actress: Eileen Walsh, Eden (Ireland).
Actor: Thomas Turgoose & Piotr Jagiello, Somers Town (U.K.).
Documentary Feature: Pray the Devil Back to Hell, dir.: Gini Reticker (USA).
Narrative Short: New Boy, dir.: Steph Green.
Oscar dates: Academy avoids conflict with U.S. presidential inauguration
Lastly, it seems only yesterday that Marion Cotillard was telling the world that Olivier (Dahan) rocked her life. But the Academy, not an organization to waste any time when it comes to its awards ceremony, has announced key dates for the 2009 Oscars, including:
- Thursday, Jan. 22: Nominations announced at 5:30 a.m. PT
- Monday, Feb. 2: Nominees Luncheon.
- Saturday, Feb. 7: Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards presentation.
- Sunday, Feb. 22: 81st Annual Academy Awards presentation.
As per the Academy’s press release, “one notable change” for the 81st Academy Awards is the nominations announcement taking place on a Thursday – instead of the traditional Tuesday – so as not to conflict with the 2009 U.S. presidential inauguration.
Cannes Film Festival website.
Manoel de Oliveira quotes: Le Point