Palm d'Or winner nabs best picture, director

Romanian helmer Cristian Mungiu was the major victor at the 20th European Film Awards on Saturday, taking both the picture and director prizes for his Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.”

Pic, which examines the hardships of two women during the final days of Nicolae Ceausescu’s socialist regime, beat out Fatih Akin’s “The Edge of Heaven,” Kevin Macdonald’s “The Last King of Scotland,” Oliver Dahan’s “La Vie en rose,” Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s “Persepolis” and Stephen Frears’ “The Queen.”

While there was little surprise as Helen Mirren nabbed the actress prize, adding another trophy to her collection, Sasson Gabai was an unexpected winner for his starring role in Eran Kolirin’s Israeli-French comedy “The Band’s Visit,” beating contenders such as James McAvoy (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Ben Whishaw (“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”).

Awards spread the kudos wealth at the low-key but often boisterous event.

Turkish-German helmer Akin won the screenplay prize for “The Edge of Heaven.”

Although Tom Tykwer’s “Perfume” failed to pick up picture or director nominations, it did win the cinematography prize (Frank Griebe) and production design kudos (Uli Hanisch).

Alexandre Desplat took the composer award for “The Queen” score.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who was on hand to receive the European Achievement in World Cinema prize, was caught off guard by an emotional video message from longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese and moved by a lengthy standing ovation.

Noticeable no-shows included French icon Jean-Luc Godard, who was honored with the lifetime achievement award.

Ceremony, hosted by German thesp Jan Josef Liefers and France’s Emmanuelle Beart in Berlin’s cavernous Arena venue, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a number of cinematic asides down memory lane as well as bombastic and rocking musical accompaniment by Finnish rock institution the Leningrad Cowboys, who made their first appearance in Aki Kaurismaki’s 1989 musical comedy “Leningrad Cowboys Go America.”

Opening the ceremony, German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann praised the state of European film and plugged the country’s increasingly significant $80 million-a-year Federal Film Fund, stressing that it is accessible to European filmmakers: “Use our fund and deliver great European films,” he declared.

The financing vehicle has attracted a number of international productions to Germany. In addition to Hollywood films such as Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie” and the Wachowskis’ “Speed Racer,” it has also bankrolled European movies such as Ole Christian Madsen’s upcoming Danish WWII drama “Flame & Citron,” starring Mads Mikkelsen.

The European Film Awards, hosted in Berlin every other year, will take place in Copenhagen in 2008 and in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2010. Ceremony is produced by the European Film Academy in cooperation with German pubcaster ZDF and European culture channel ARTE. Show is set to air in a total of 61 territories around the globe.

THE WINNERS FOR THE 20th EUROPEAN FILM AWARDS ARE:

FILM: “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” Cristian Mungiu (Romania)

DIRECTOR: Cristian Mungiu, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” (Romania)

ACTRESS: Helen Mirren, “The Queen” (U.K.)

ACTOR: Sasson Gabai, “The Band’s Visit” (Israel, France)

SCREENWRITER: Fatih Akin, “The Edge of Heaven,” (Germany)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frank Griebe, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” (Germany, France, Spain)

PRIX D’EXCELLENCE: Uli Hanisch for Production Design, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” (Germany, France, Spain)

COMPOSER: Alexandre Desplat, “The Queen” (U.K.)

DISCOVERY: “The Band’s Visit,” Eran Kolirin (Israel, France)

DOCUMENTARY – PRIX ARTE: “Paper Cannot Wrap Up Embers,” Rithy Panh (France).

SHORT FILM – PRIX UIP: “Alumbramiento,” Eduardo Chapero-Jackson (Spain)

PEOPLE’S CHOICE FOR BEST EUROPEAN FILM: “La Sconosciuta” (The Other Woman), Giuseppe Tornatore, (Italy)

CRITICS AWARD – PRIX FIPRESCI: “Private Fears in Public Places,” Alain Resnais (France, Italy)

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Jean-Luc Godard Achievement in World Cinema: Michael Ballhaus Prix Eurimages

CO-PRODUCER AWARD: Margaret Menegoz, Veit Heiduschka Honorary Award: Manoel de Oliveira

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