Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days,” a stark, trenchant drama about a woman’s experiences receiving an abortion in the waning days of Romania’s communist era, won the Palme d’Or at the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
Screened on the fest’s first full day, “4 Months” is one of the few Cannes films in memory to have led wire-to-wire in critics’ polls and come out on top on awards night Sunday. IFC bought the picture during the festival for U.S. release.
But while few would dispute that the most important prize went to the right film, the remainder of the awards bore all the earmarks of compromise-necessitated give-and-take on a jury at odds with itself as the selections zig-zagged among the esoteric, the political and the female-driven.
For starters, the Grand Prix, the prestigious runner-up award, went to Naomi Kawase’s “The Mourning Forest,” an ultra-arty, arid and slow French-Japanese co-production that had viewers and critics streaming for the exits early. It was supported only by diehard partisans on the fest circuit.
Then there was a specially created award, the 60th anniversary prize, for Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park,” a well-crafted but narrowly conceived drama (also French-financed) of a teenage skateboarder in denial about having accidentally caused a man’s death. Nod seemed odd on three counts: Film is very small; Van Sant only recently won the Palme d’Or for “Elephant”; and pic was, by most estimations, the third-most accomplished American film in the competition this year, after the Coen brothers’ unhonored “No Country for Old Men” and David Fincher’s “Zodiac.”
Only other Yank onstage to accept an accolade at the Sunday night festivities, which thesp Diane Kruger presided over and French television broadcast live, was Julian Schnabel, who drew director honors for his French-spoken-and-financed drama “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” (Miramax acquired the pic after its fest debut.) Perhaps imagining he was at the Oscars, Schnabel overstayed his welcome in the spotlight at least three times over, shaking the hand of every jury member, making his cast stand up and rambling on as he thanked everyone he could think of.
Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin received the screenplay nod for “The Edge of Heaven,” a femme-centered drama about the ironies of fate with multicultural and political dimensions.
Jeon Do-yeon, one of South Korea’s best-regarded younger thesps, copped the actress prize for her performance as a mother whose young son is kidnapped and murdered in Lee Chang-dong’s “Secret Sunshine.” It was the one award other than the Palme d’Or for which the winner was widely reckoned to be right on the money.
By contrast, the actor nod came completely out of left field, going to Konstantin Lavronenko for his turn as a tormented husband and father in Russian drama “The Banishment.” Director Andrei Zvyagintsev accepted the prize for his absent thesp.
Furthering the sense of awards distributed all over the map was the jury prize tie between two films that could scarcely be more different: French-U.S. production “Persepolis,” Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s animated account of Satrapi’s journey from girlhood in pre-revolutionary Iran to Western womanhood, and Carlos Reygadas’ “Silent Light,” an austere, visually striking study of adultery within a Mennonite community in Mexico. Reygadas has said he intends to cut about 20 minutes from his film, officially a Mexican-French-Dutch co-production.
Along with the two American thrillers, the other generally well-received film ignored by the jury was Russian vet Alexander Sokurov’s “Alexandra,” about an elderly woman who visits her soldier grandson in Chechnya.
At the brief jury press conference afterward, jury prexy Stephen Frears slithered through questions about internal jury dissension via puckish humor. Asked about their decision-making process, the British helmer retorted, “People are very mutinous up here. They wouldn’t do what I told them, so I didn’t try to.” Quizzed about why they bypassed giving a prize to the widely acclaimed Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men,” Frears deadpanned, “He’s terrible, absolutely dreadful.” Pause, then, “He’s a wonderful actor. Why did we not give it to Javier? He owes me £500.”
Fellow juror Michel Piccoli admitted, “There was no unanimity. It’s impossible, ridiculous. To the contrary!”
Sarah Polley, one of four actresses on the jury (she also just directed her first film), allowed that, “I’ve never seen so many people listen to each other so closely.”
As to the special 60th anni award, Toni Collette insisted, “We wanted to give the prize to someone whose body of work was rather incredible. We all felt very strongly about Gus.”
Other members of the jury were thesps Maggie Cheung and Maria de Medeiros, directors Abderrahmane Sissako and Marco Bellocchio and writer Orhan Pamuk.
Highly prized Camera d’Or for first feature in the entire festival, regardless of category, went to “Jellyfish,” a seriocomic Israeli ensembler, shown in Critics’ Week, that was written and directed by the husband-and-wife team of Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen. A special mention was made of Anton Corbijn’s “Control,” the black-and-white biopic of suicidal Joy Division topper Ian Curtis that was one of the few pics to stir any excitement in Directors’ Fortnight this year. (The Weinstein Co. announced Monday that it had acquired North American rights to the drama, which marks the feature directorial debut of photographer and musicvid helmer Corbijn.)
The Un Certain Regard jury bestowed its Grand Prix on another Romanian drama, “California Dreamin’ ” (Endless), directed by Cristian Nemescu, who died during post-production. Special jury prize went to Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s French entry “Actresses,” while the “Coup de Coeur” award was given to Eran Kolirin’s “The Band’s Visit,” which further helped make it a strong year for Israel.
Short-film jury singled out Elisa Miller’s “Watching It Rain,” from Mexico, for the Palme d’Or and gave special mentions to Mark Albiston’s “Run” from New Zealand and Anthony Chen’s “Grandma” from Singapore.
The Critics’ Week jury gave its Grand Prix to Lucia Puenzo’s “XXY,” an Argentine-Spanish-French co-production, while the Cinefondation Jury’s first prize was snared by Gonzalo Tobal’s “Now Everybody Seems to Be Happy,” also from Argentina.
Ecumenical award was snapped up by “The Edge of Heaven,” while the Fipresci international critics awards went to “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days” (competition), “The Band’s Visit” (Un Certain Regard) and French thesp Sandrine Bonnaire’s feature “Her Name Is Sabine” (Directors’ Fortnight).
(Dave McNary in Hollywood contributed to this report.)
WINNERS OF THE 60th CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION JURY
Palme d’Or: “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days,” Cristian Mungiu, (Romania)
Grand Prix : “The Mourning Forest,” Naomi Kawase, (France-Japan)
60th Anniversary Prize : Gus Van Sant (“Paranoid Park,” France-U.S.)
Screenplay: Fatih Akin (“The Edge of Heaven,” Germany-Turkey)
Director: Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” France)
Actor: Konstantin Lavronenko (“The Banishment,” Russia)
Actress: Jeon Do-yeon (“Secret Sunshine,” South Korea)
Jury Prize (shared) “Persepolis” (Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, France-U.S.) “Silent Light” (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico-France-Netherlands)
SHORT FILM JURY
Palme d’Or: “Watching It Rain” (Elisa Miller, Mexico)
Special Mentions: “Run” (Mark Albiston, New Zealand) “Grandma” (Anthony Chen, Singapore)
UN CERTAIN REGARD JURY
Grand Prix : “California Dreamin’ (Endless) (Cristian Nemescu, Romania)
Special Jury Prize: “Actresses” (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, France)
Coup de Coeur Award: “The Band’s Visit” (Eran Kolirin, Israel-U.S.-France)
CAMERA D’OR JURY
Camera d’Or: “Jellyfish” (Etgar Keret, S
hira Geffen, Israel-France)
Special Mention: “Control” (Anton Corbijn, U.K.-Australia-Japan)
First Prize: “Now Everybody Seems to be Happy” (Gonzalo Tobal, Argentina)
Second Prize: “Way Out” (Chen Tao, China)
Third Prize: (shared) “A Reunion” (Hong Sung-hoon, South Korea) “Minus” (Pavle Vuckovic, Serbia)
CRITICS’ WEEK JURIES
Grand Prix: “XXY” (Lucia Puenzo, Argentina-Spain-France)
SACD Prize: “Jellyfish.”
ACID/CCAS Support Award: “XXY.”
OFAJ/TV5Monde (Very)Young Critic Award: “Jellyfish.”
Canal Plus Award for Best Short Film: “Madame Tutli-Putli” (Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada)
Kodak Discovery Award for Best Short Film: “Um ramo” (Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, Brazil)
Ecumenical Award: “The Edge of Heaven.”
Fipresci Awards (intl. critics’ assn.) “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days” (Competition) “The Band’s Visit” (Un Certain Regard) “Her Name Is Sabine” (Directors’ Fortnight)