By Alan Scherstuhl
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CANNES, FRANCEThe 60th Cannes Film Festival was a generous oneand so was its jury, bestowing the Palme dOr on the least heralded, most critically acclaimed movie in an unusually strong competition, namely Romanian director Cristian Mungius 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
Mungius skillfully directed, superbly acted account of two naïve college girls in search of an illegal abortion was also named the best film of the competition by the international presss FIPRESCI jury; its Palme dOr clearly delighted the press gathered to watch the awards on closed circuit TV, even if it baffled the star-gazers who, outside the Grand Palais, thronged the Croisette six deep to witness the comings and goings of the winners.
Scattering awards like confetti, the jurywhich was headed by British director Steven Frearsgave prizes to nine of the 21 eligible films. Conspicuously absent were the Coen brotherss No Country for Old Men which had rivaled 4 Months for critical kudos, and the competitions three other American genre filmsQuentin Tarantinos Death Proof, David Finchers Zodiac, and James Grays We Own the Night. But the U.S. was not totally overlooked; the jury awarded a special 60th Anniversary Prize to Gus Van Sants superlative youth drama Paranoid Park.
The Van Sant award was a surprise, as was the second place Grand Prix for The Mourning Forest, by Japanese director Naomi Kawasea sentimental fable that, shown late in the festival, inspired more walkouts than enthusiasm. The third place Jury Prize, which has often gone to relatively experimental fare, was shared by the popular animated feature Persepolisadapted by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud from Satrapis graphic novelsand Carlos Reygadass austere Silent Light, a stunningly beautiful melodrama set in the insular world of Mexicos Mennonites.
South Korean actress Jeon Do-yeon was named Best Actress for her portrayal of a traumatized young mother in Lee Chang-dongs novelistic thriller Secret Sunshine. Jeons award was expected, although few anticipated that the prize for Best Actor would go to Konstantin Lavronenko, who played a dourly distraught husband in Andrei Zvyagintsevs lugubrious Christian allegory The Banishment.
Rounding out the awards, consolation prizes were handed out to two movies widely touted for the Palme dOr: Fatih Akin won Best Screenplay for The Edge of Heaven, his coincidence-laden tale of alienated Turks and the Germans who love them, and Julian Schnabel was named Best Director for his French-language adaptation of Jean-Dominique Baubys memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterflya book that the paralyzed writer composed one letter at a time, communicating with his transcriber by blinking his eye.
Schnabel also gave the evenings most loutish performance. His anger barely masked behind outsized sunglasses, the bearded, heavy-set artist insisted on shaking hands with every member of the nonplussed jury. He subsequently serenaded the audience with a few bars of Thank Heaven For Little Girls, denied subscribing to the notion that the only trouble with France is the French, and declared that if he were awarded the Palme dOr he would give it to Bernardo Bertolucci (who did not have a film in competition). The artist profusely thanked his cast, crew, entourage, and familyif not the man whose story furnished the basis for his movie.
For the second time in three years, the first prize in the Un Certain Regard section went to a Romanian filmthe late Cristian Nemescus California Dreamin. The two runners up were actress Valeria Bruni-Tedeschis comic psychodrama Actresses and the crowd-pleasing Israeli comedy The Bands Visit. The Camera dOr for the festivals best first feature went to another Israeli comedy, the light and fanciful Jellyfish directed by (and starring) the popular writer Etgar Keret and his wife Shira Geffen. Accepting his award, the boyish Keret remained in character: All of this is so far from our lives. I havent worn a suit since my bar mitzvah.
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