‘Hedwig’s’ Mitchell wins 3 prizes

Transsexual tales wins Grand Prix at American Film Festival

DEAUVILLE, France — “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” went the whole nine yards in Deauville on Sunday night, winning the American Film Festival’s Grand Prix.

Hyper-hyphenate John Cameron Mitchell collected two more trophies when his tale of a transsexual East German cabaret star in search of love won the Intl. Critics prize and one Audience award sponsored by magazine Cine Live.

Speaking rather good French — with the accurate and thematically apt caveat that “I have trouble with gender; I mix up masculine and feminine” — Mitchell was simultaneously gracious and naughty. Where others saw five rigid metal likenesses of rolled beach umbrellas on a rectangular base, Mitchell pronounced his first trophy “seating for five,” amending it to “seating for 10” as he accumulated kudos.

Festival co-founder Lionel Chouchan parried that one metal beach umbrella would prove extremely painful but that five, like a bed of nails, would be a source of pleasure.

The imagery continued as Terry Zwigoff, indisposed in central France, accepted the Jury Prize for his ode to post-modern angst “Ghost World” via a vivid fax. A dinner with friends the night before had culminated in a bout of three-dessert gluttony. Pleading illness, Zwigoff concluded that it was vital to remain in close proximity to “a toilet — and a very modern one,” making a return trip to Deauville too risky.

The lone acting prize honored “Ghost World’s” Thora Birch. The other Audience prize, sponsored by France’s only Sunday paper, went to Joel Hopkins’ cross-cultural road movie “Jump Tomorrow.”

Shorts shine

Deauville accords equal weight to shorts and features. The Canal Plus prize for best short went to R.A. White’s workplace reverie “Frank’s Book,” the Jury Prize went to Lori Silverbush’s “Mental Hygiene,” and the Grand Prix went to a happy Seth Wiley for his bittersweet toll booth comedy “The Good Things.”

Burt Reynolds received a standing ovation during his tribute Friday night. Jesting, as most celeb attendees have, about the steep and seemingly endless stairs to the stage, Reynolds quipped, “That walk down here lasted longer than my first marriage did,” turning serious to add that the tribute “makes up for 43 years of broken bones” and that “broken hearts heal because of you.”

Immersed in post-production on “Minority Report,” and unable to attend the French preem Saturday of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” Steven Spielberg sent regrets via tape, expressing his affection for Deauville, his gratitude to his friend of 18 years Stanley Kubrick, and his ambitions in addressing the future obligations of humans to their robot companions. A poised Haley Joel Osment wowed the capacity crowd with a stunning speech in impeccable French.

After a series of career clips, followed by a bigscreen unspooling of his prodigious dancing in Fat Boy Slim’s recent video, honoree Christopher Walken took the stage in triumph Sunday to receive his tribute trophy from jury president Jean-Jacques Annaud.

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