Romanian film wins top Cannes prize
CANNES, France — A modest film from a humble filmmaker put Romania on top of the world yesterday at the 60th anniversary Cannes Film Festival.
Cristian Mungiu’s drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days — the story of how two female university students deal with an illegal abortionist who wants to exploit them sexually — won the Palme d’Or as best film.
The surprise triumph by the 39-year-old Romanian, who won with only his third feature film, pushed aside higher profile films from established directors.
That list included the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, David Fincher’s Zodiac, Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights, Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, Bela Tarr’s The Man From London, James Gray’s We Own the Night, Emir Kusturica’s Promise Me This and Alexander Sokurov’s Alexandra.
Former Palme d’Or winners such as the Coens, Tarantino and Kusturica got nothing this time around from the nine-member, star-studded jury headed by British filmmaker Stephen Frears.
That was shocking in the case of the Coens because their macho stars, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones, were thought to be contenders for best actor and the film itself was thought to be in the running for the Palme d’Or.
Another humble filmmaker, Japan’s Naomi Kawase, took the second prize, or the Grand Prix, for her contemplative human drama Mogari No Mori (The Mourning Forest).
One former Palme d’or winner Van Sant, meanwhile, took home the made-up third prize, the Prix du 60th Anniversaire, for Paranoid Park. “It had very humble beginnings,” the gracious Van Sant said of his project, the story of a Portland skateboarder who accidentally kills a security guard and covers up the incident.
Two other films shared the Prix du Jury, which essentially put them in a tie for fourth. One was Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light. The other was the enormously popular animated film Persepolis from Franco-Iranian director Marjane Satrapi and French filmmaker Vincent Paronnaud. Satrapi essentially told her own story of growing up in the politically volatile Iran and emigrating to France.
The best actor prize went to a Russian, Konstantin Lavronenko, who played the role of the father who returns to his birthplace with his young family in The Banishment, a film that hardly anyone had been talking about.
The best actress prize went to a Korean, Jeon Do-Yeon, who played a distraught widow whose son is kidnapped in Secret Sunshine. It is another performance that few outsiders had been talking about before the jury made its decision.
An American — colourful painter-filmmaker Julian Schnabel — won the best director prize for making a French-language drama about the triumph of the human spirit.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the true-life story of a French socialite who, by blinking his eye for an interpreter, writes a book about his anguish after a stroke totally paralyses his body.
A sweetly excited Schnabel, rambling through a monologue, finally said: “In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would be here because, basically, I am just a movie fan. I never thought I would become a movie director.”
The best screenplay prize went to Turkish writer-director Fatih Akin, who quickly issued thanks for his award. Then he made a declaration to his countrymen, who are about to vote on whether to maintain a secular state: “I have one message for Turkey. All is one; united we stand; divided we fall.”
The Palme d’Or for short films — which was selected by a separate jury — went to Watching It Rain from Mexico’s Elisa Miller. Special mentions went to New Zealand’s Mark Albiston for Run, and Singapore’s Anthony Chen for Ah Ma.
In the Un Certain Regard section, a parallel group of official selections, the top prize coincidentally went to another Romanian film.
Yet another jury handed the Prix Un Certain Regard Cristian Nemescu’s California Dreamin’ (Endless).
The Camera d’Or, a coveted prize for first-time directors with films in any of the official programs, went to Meduzot, co-directors Elgar Keret and Shira Geffen’s entry in the International Critics Week.
“I haven’t worn a suit since my bar mitzvah,” Keret quipped. Anton Corbun’s Control earned a special mention in this category.
Romanian film wins top Cannes prize