Europe, U.S. big winners as festival closes

See complete list of Cannes winners

CANNES — Europe and the U.S. went away the big winners at the 54th Cannes Film Festival (9-20 May), with three awards going to a single film, Austrian-French drama “The Piano Teacher,” and Joel Coen and David Lynch sharing Best Director award for, respectively, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” and “Mulholland Drive,” both noirish drama-thrillers.

Crowning the cake was Palme d’Or winner, “The Son’s Room,” a poignant drama of bereavement from director Nanni Moretti. Italian helmer-actor previously nabbed the best director award in ’94 for “Dear Diary.”

The only other major award also went to a Euro, Bosnian-born Danis Tanovic, whose debut feature, the ironic war drama “No Man’s Land,” walked off with Best Script.

After a festival which never really took flight, and saw one after another veteran auteur either precariously maintain their status or topple embarrassingly to the ground, the awards from the 10-member jury headed by Norwegian actress-director Liv Ullmann, were seen as strangely conventional. Of the 23 movies in the running, established names rather than fresher talent dominated the prizes, with several deserving of a nod shut out.

Playing a middle-aged woman erotically involved with a younger student, Isabelle Huppert was a popular choice for Best Actress for “The Piano Teacher,” a widely expected award, even though the movie itself had divided critics. In the event, pic equalled the record set by “Barton Fink” in 1991, scooping three prizes, including the surprise decision of Best Actor for young French thesp Benoit Magimel.

Last time a single movie won both performance awards was in 1980, when Michel Piccoli and Anouk Aimee (both French actors dubbed into Italian) were prized for Marco Bellocchio’s “Leap into the Void.”

Though Lynch had been tipped for some kind of prize for the largely admired “Mulholland Drive,” a bigger surprise was Joel Coen sharing Best Director award with his fellow Yank. Coen’s B&W hommage, “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” with Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand, had received a decidedly mixed response, and Coen had already ankled the fest prior to its conclusion. In a minor gaffe, jury prez Ullmann referred to the pic as “The Man Who Wasn’t Here.”

In her introductory speech which raised eyebrows, Ullmann hinted at jury strife by noting that unanimity had not always prevailed, with some of her fellow jurors’ likes “filling me with anger.” However, she quickly added that “we in the jury are still friends.”

Ullmann had run one of the most rigorous juries in memory, with early morning meetings every day to chew over the two or three movies viewed during the previous 24 hours. Each juror was required to elaborate, and the meetings often lasted several hours.

With no clear winner having emerged during the fest’s first seven days, “The Son’s Room” immediately began to unite the cognoscenti as a possible Palme d’Or from its screening last Thursday (May 17). No other major films emerged during the final two days, apart from the French WW1 hospital drama “The Officers’ Ward,” helmed by Francois Dupeyron, though it was never considered likely to get the top award.

With “The Piano Teacher” alone nabbing three awards, several major contenders went home empty-handed, including veteran Jean-Luc Godard, whose “In Praise of Love” was reckoned his most challenging pic in over a decade; Jacques Rivette’s elegant comedy, “Who Knows?”; and two titles admired more for their lead perfs than anything else, Manoel de Oliveira’s study of an ageing actor, “I’m Going Home” (with Michel Piccoli), and Cedric Kahn’s police procedural, “Roberto Succo” (with Stefano Cassetti).

Though Baz Luhrmann’s gaudy, extravagant opener, “Moulin Rouge,” had its supporters, it was never expected to be a winner. DreamWorks’ toon, “Shrek,” was a major popular and critical success, but it too was never seriously reckoned to be prized, apart from maybe the Technical Award. In the event, this went to a veteran Taiwanese sound engineer, Tu Duu-chih, for his work on both “Millennium Mambo” and “What Time Is It There?” The award was seen as a sop to the Asian entrants, whose works, unlike the previous year, had signally failed to achieve.

With an extraordinary seven features alone in Official Selection, of which three were competing, Japanese cinema most significantly landed on its face, with both well-known names and newcomers under-performing.

In fact, in a Cannes at which many wags noted that the best movie was 22 years old (“Apocalypse Now”), and the best new film was a 25-minute product reel (“Lord of the Rings”), nostalgia for the good old days hung heavy in the air as the fest crawled to it close. Ullmann echoed some of this feeling in her unusually frank opening speech.

“We, the jury,” she said, “also want to thank the fact that Coppola’s masterpiece, ‘Apocalypse Now,’ in its ‘Redux’ version, some 20 years later is there – and still growing.”

The sentiment drew an appreciative response from press and public alike.

And the winners are…

FEATURE FILMS

Palme d’Or
“The Son’s Room” (Italy-France, Nanni Moretti )

Grand Prix
“The Piano Teacher” (Austria-France, Michael Haneke)

Best Actor
Benoit Magimel, “The Piano Teacher”

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert, “The Piano Teacher”

Best Director (shared)
David Lynch, “Mulholland Drive” (U.S.-France)
Joel Coen, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (U.S.)

Best Screenplay
Danis Tanovic, “No Man’s Land” (France-Italy-Belgium-U.K.-Slovenia)

Technical Prize
Tu Duu-chih, sound for “Millennium Mambo” (Taiwan-France) and “What Time Is It There?” (Taiwan-France)

SHORT FILMS

Palme d’Or
“Bean Cake” (U.S., David Greenspan)

Prix du Jury (fiction)
“Daddy’s Girl” (U.K., Irvine Allan)

Prix du Jury (animation)
“Pizza Passionata” (Finland, Kari Juusonen)

Camera d’Or (for first feature)
“Atanarjuat the Fast Runner” (Canada, Zacharias Kunuk)

Cinefondation
First Prize: “Portrait” (Russia, Sergei Luchishin)
Second Prize: “Reparation” (Sweden, Jens Jonsson)
Third Prize (shared): “Run Away” (China, Yang Chao) and “Crow Stone” (U.K., Alicia Duffy)

FIPRESCI
Competing: “The Son’s Room”
Un Certain Regard:
“Pulse” (Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Parallel Sections (Shared): “Martha…Martha” (France, Sandrine Veysset) and “The Pornographer” (France, Bertrand Bonello)

Ecumenical
Best Film: “Kandahar” (Iran, Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
Future Talent: “Unloved” (Japan, Manda Kunitoshi)

CRITICS WEEK AWARDS

Grand Prix for feature:“Under the Moonlight” (Iran, Reza Mir-Karimi)
Best Short: “Eat” (U.S., Bill Plympton)

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