Cannes Comes to a Close with Awards -- Lars Von Trier, Wong Kar-wai and Iranian Cinema are Big Winners
by Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE
>> Von Trier and Bjork Tag Team Victory, Plus Asian and Iranian Winners
(indieWIRE/05.22.00) - Amidst the high-pitched screams of rabid fans outside
Cannes' Grand Palais on Sunday evening, the awards for the 53rd Cannes Film
Festival were doled out with refreshing swiftness and equanimity. The French
sure know how to throw an award show; the whole shebang lasted under an
hour. And after all was said and done, ten different films grabbed a total
of some 12 possible top award spots. (However, French entries were
noticeable shut out, with not a single French film garnering an award.)
Lars Von Trier's musical, "Dancer in the Dark," won two top awards including the prestigious Palme d'Or. Another big winner was Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love," which captured two awards. The other notable winners were a trio of filmmakers from Iran, Samira Makhmalbaf, Hassan Yektapanah, and Bahman Ghobadi -- each received a major prize on awards night in France.
Hosted by Virginie Ledoyen, the closing ceremony kicked off with the
presentation of the Palme for best short film. Last year's winner for best
feature Luc Dardenne and president of the short film jury, gave the award to
Philippine director Raymond Red's "Anino" about a poor church photographer experiencing the harsh realities of old Manila. Eleven films from 10
different countries competed for the award.
Next up was a special Technical Prize given to the cinematographic team
behind Wong kar-wai's exquisitely photographed "In the Mood for Love":
Christopher Doyle, Mark Li Ping-bing ("Accidental Legend") and William Chang Suk-ping. Because of the near 2-year duration of the "In the Mood for Love" shoot, frequent Wong collaborator Doyle was unavailable for the entire
production. Nevertheless, Wong and his team created a richly colored and
alluring interior landscape of narrow hallways, small rooms, and reflective
surfaces for this tale of love and secrets in 1960's Hong Kong.
Before the main Competition awards got underway, the Camera d'Or (Best First
Film) was announced, signaling the continued rise of Iranian cinema. Two
films from the Middle Eastern country shared the Camera, Un Certain Regard
entry Hassan Yektapanah's "Djomeh" and Director's Fortnight entry
"A Time for Drunken Horses" by Bahman Ghobadi, who worked as Abbas Kiarostami's assistant director on "The Wind Will Carry Us."
Iranian cinema also got a boost with the return of Samira Makhmalbaf,
daughter of famed master Mohsen Makhmalbaf, to Cannes after her widely
applauded debut last year with "The Apple." "Blackboards," her second film,
shared the Special Jury Prize with Swedish director Roy Andersson's rigorous feature "Songs from the Second Floor," his first since 1975. Upon winning
the award, the striking Makhmalbaf, clad in black shroud, was rather choked
up. "I wanted to say something on behalf of," she suddenly stopped, filled
with emotion, later dedicating her award to her homeland and "a promise for
a better life in Iran." While Makhmalbaf's film was a consistent critical
favorite at the festival, many gunning for her film to win the Palme,
Andersson's 46 single-static-shot whimsical story about a man and his son
going insane seemed more an oddity than a Cannes competitor.
Injecting a little American star power into the Cannes ceremony, "The
Yard's" stars Charlize Theron and Joaquin Phoenix awarded the Best
Screenplay award to John C. Richards and James Flamberg for their work on Neil Labute's "Nurse Betty," the first of his films which he did not write.
Was the jury trying to tell him something? Presided over by French director
Luc Besson, the Cannes jury consisted of Jonathan Demme, Italian director
Mario Martone, French writer Patrick Modiano, Indian writer Arundhati Roy, and a number of professional actors; French actress-director Nicole Garcia, Spanish actress Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Kristin Scott Thomas, German actress Barbara Sukowa, and Jeremy Irons.
But the award for Best Director at Cannes was presented by a surprising
choice: John Waters, in town with his latest sample of midnight madness
"Cecil B. Demented." Given to a very different talent, Taiwanese auteur
Edward Yang for "Yi Yi" ("A One and A Two") for his broad, heartfelt story
of the members of a contemporary family living in Taipei.
For acting prizes, the big moment of the night came with the arrival of
Bjork back in town, walking up the red carpet in her pink and black striped
gown. Why would she return if she hadn't won? Those guessing would be right.
As soon as Luc Besson whispered "It's Oh so Quiet" into the microphone, the
applause began and the singer, who'd never acted in her life, was awarded
best actress by a jury made up of mostly professional actors. After a
standing ovation, Bjork, humble and child-like, said to her adoring fans, "I
am very grateful, thank you very much." Though many had suggested Bjork for
the acting prize, Lena Endre's explosive performance in Liv Ullman's
"Faithless" was a marked omission from the category.
Hong Kong star Tony Leung Chiu-wai won best actor for his portrayal of a
repressed husband dealing with betrayal in Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for
Love." It's the fourth time Leung has worked with Wong, after "Days of Being
Wild" (1991), "Chungking Express" (1994) and "Happy Together" (1997). The result is all understatement and nuance, a film where everything happens off
frame and behind Leung and his co-star Maggie Cheung's faces. USA Films
acquired the film based on a mere 3-minute promo reel, surely on the basis
of the cinematography and the acting. A special acting mention was also given to Pavel Lounguine's "La Noce" (The Wedding), the story of a wedding in a small Russian town that had few champions at the festival.
The Grand Jury Prize went to the 2 hour 45 minute black and white epic,
"Devils on the Doorstep" by Chinese actor-director-producer Jiang Wen. A
critical favorite at the festival, Jiang's film may have been long, but wasn't short on engaging drama, comedy, and poignancy. Set during the Japanese occupation of China, the story is about the naive, hapless Ma Dasan (Jiang) and what happens after he is made responsible for two Japanese captives.
Catherine Deneuve turned out to be the perfect presenter for Cannes' top
prize, the Palme D'Or, as it went to a film in which she appeared in, Lars
von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark." The film proved to be the most anticipated
film in the festival with also the biggest pay off -- the Golden Palm. While
many notable U.S. critics immediately dismissed the film, international
audiences and select fans of Von Trier remained emotionally devastated by
the film and claimed it the highlight of the festival. After the ceremony,
Von Trier and Bjork appeared side by side at a press conference, joking slightly, sometimes making faces at each other, even exchanging a few physical jabs. "It was painful, as we said," Von Trier repeated of the experience. Maybe, with two Cannes awards under their belt, it was all worth it. [Anthony Kaufman]
>> THE LIST OF AWARDS NIGHT WINNERS is available at indieWIRE.com:
>>"Eureka" Cry Critics, "Girlfight" Knocks Out Youth Jury, "Five Feet" Rises Above Other Students
(indieWIRE/5.22.00) -- In addition to the main competition, awards were also
announced over the weekend for the FIPRESCI international critics prizes,
the Prix de la Jeunesse (Youth Jury Prizes), and the Cinefoundation. The
international critics board, led by jury president, Australian film critic
David Stratton, saluted the "extraordinary dynamism of Asian cinema, as
represented in the official selection of the festival," and gave their
competition prize to Japanese director Aoyama Shinji's "Eureka" for its
"penetrating insights into the lives of survivors of a tragedy, for the
formal beauty of the photography, and for the moving performances."
At a running time of 3 hours 37 minutes and with only a single official
screening time for both press and public, "Eureka" was surely the least seen
competition movie in Cannes this year. Starring Yakusho Koji ("Shall We Dance?"), the film tells the story of a bus hijacking in southwest Japan and
the damaging effects its has on its three survivors. For films screening in
the parallel sections of the festival (Critics Week, Directors Fortnight),
the FIPRESCI prize went to "A Time for Drunken Horses" the debut film from
Abbas Kiarostami's assistant director Bahman Ghobadi, for "its compassionate but rigorous depiction of a harsh reality where horses and humans share the same predicament."
Joining the ranks of previous winners "The Blair Witch Project" (1999),
"Last Night" (1998) and "She's Gotta Have it" (1986), Karyn Kusama's
Director's Fortnight entry "Girlfight" was awarded the foreign film prize by
a 7-member jury of young French film critics. In the French film category,
the award went to Patricia Mazuy's "Saint-Cyr," a period film screening in
Un Certain Regard, starring Isabelle Huppert.
The short film jury, presided by Belgian director Luc Dardenne ("Rosetta"),
awarded its prizes in the Cinefoundation sidebar -- a showcase for first and
second-time student films. First prize went to Peter Sollett's Sundance
winner and NYU thesis "Five Feet High and Rising," which was purchased for
broadcast by the Sundance Channel, it was announced last week during the
festival. Two films garnered second prize, fellow NYU alumnus Caran
Hartsfield's "Kiss it up to God," and Tel-Aviv University student Amit