Friends: With all the good films this year there weren't enough awards to go around to recognize them all. The jury actually created two extra awards so they could give out nine rather than the usual seven. The extras went to a tie for third best film and a special 60th Anniversary Award. The jury also elected to overlook a couple of exceptional films by established directors who have won many awards so they could bring attention to fresh talent.
As expected, the Palm d'Or went to the Romanian abortion film "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days." Also expected, Do-Yeon Jeon from the South Korean film "Secret Sunshine" won best actress. The early favorite from the Russian film "Alexandra" dropped off the map after this film screened. And it was no surprise that Fatih Akin won best screenplay for his intricately plotted German/Turkish film "The Edge of Heaven."
The rest of the awards were not exactly what was anticipated. The biggest shocker of all was the lead from the Russian film "The Banishment" winning the best actor award. Few expected that film to receive any recognition from the jury. Best director going to Julian Schnabel for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was a surprise, even to him. Having been called back to the festival to collect an award, he was hoping he'd won the Palm d'Or. He said if he had won it, he would have given it to Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian who many think should have won it in years past.
A pleasant surprise was the slight Japanese film "The Mourning Forest" receiving the Grand Jury award for the second best film. "Persoplis" the French animated film about a young Iranian woman and "Silent Night" about the Mennonites in Mexico, both worthy films, shared the prize for third best film. And Gus Van Sant was given a special 60th Anniversary award for "Paranoid Park." He didn't seem all too excited about it, hoping for a bigger fish than that. At least he got something. The Coen brothers for "No Country for Old Men" and Alexander Sokouruv for
"Alexandra" received nothing, despite being favorites for the Palm d'Or.
Before the awards ceremony Charles and I had a chat with critic Ken Jones, who had served on the Uncertain Regard jury. We asked if "California Dreams" was a consensus choice of his jury. He said the French film "Actresses" was his choice, not something I particularly cared for. I asked if he expected it to be another winning night for Romania. He said he had heard that the jury might surprise and give the Palm d'Or to something other than "Four Months." He'd heard wrong.
I had a busy day before the 7:30 p.m. awards ceremony seeing the three Competition films I had missed and also giving a second viewing to several other films. Unfortunately all of my favorites were screening at a time when I needed to see something else, so I wasn't able to enjoy "Four Months" or "Alexandra" or "The Edge of Heaven" or "The Diving Bell" or "Silent Night" or "Import/Export" or "Breath" again.
My first film of the day in the new 400-seat 60th Anniversary Theater, constructed on the roof of the market complex, was the opening night film "My Blueberry Nights" by Wong Kar Wei. Although the film has the cinematic flourishes that make cineastes and fellow directors gush over Kar Wei's camera movements and angles, there wasn't enough emotional depth to Norah Jones's character of a woman hitting the road after breaking up with her boy friend to make this anything more than average fare. I had the enjoyment, however, of seeing the name of a friend from Facets, Leanne Murphy, who I helped moved to Manhattan nine years ago, appear in the credits for her design work.
Norah Jone's performance, as well as that of every other actress in the festival, was overwhelmed by that of Do-Yeon Jeon in "Secret Sunshine"from South Korea. She plays a recently widowed 25-year old who moves to the city where her husband was raised with their five-year old son. The city is small enough that everyone seems to know who she is, but thinks it odd that she would move to a city she had never been to. As one woman says, "She looks fine, but I don't think she's normal." She gives piano lessons and is pursued by a nerdy, never-married, semi-repugnant 39-year old. She suffers a traumatic event that leads to her embracing Christianity. She becomes supremely devoted and seems saved, but she suffers another traumatic event giving her doubts. As with the other South Korea film in Competition, this movie has a prison scene that is the crux of the story. The range and depth of her performance was profoundly moving.
"Persopolis," the black and white animated feature based on a series of best selling novels about an Iranian woman's life growing up in Iran and Europe, gives an insightful look into the suppressive state of that regime. Like many movies this year, it featured a feisty elder--this one her grandmother. She speaks frankly not caring about the repercussions, saying Tehran "has become a shit-hole."
The closing night film after the awards ceremony was "The Age of Ignorance" by French-Canadian Denys Arcand. The closing night film is never anything exceptional, just something okay, otherwise it would have been included in one of the competitive categories. Marc Labreche is a 50-year old civil servant with a dynamic real estate agent of a wife and a couple of daughters, none of whom would miss him if he never came home. The movie is a succession of his flights of fancy imagining how he would like his life to be--becoming a samurai warrior in the middle of a meeting beheading his boss, summoning a couple of African warriors who brutally rape a worker he is at odds with, having hard, spontaneous sex with women who demand it of him and on and on.
Fortunately, I didn't have to end the festival with this. The final rescreening of a Competition film was "Zodiac" at ten p.m. There were less than a hundred of us wanting one last film. If he weren't a Hollywood star Jake Gyllenhaal easily could have won the best actor award here for his performance as the San Francisco cartoonist who became obsessed with the Zodiac serial killer and tried to solve the case on his own over many years. The movie is based on his book.
And now I can return to the bike. It's off to Craig, about 250 miles west, and then he and I will
head north to the Channel.