CANNES: ‘Winter Sleep’ Wins Palme d’Or

Winter Sleep Cannes 2014

Bennett Miller wins best director for 'Foxcatcher,' while Julianne Moore and Timothy Spall take acting prizes

CANNES Winter Sleep,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s sprawling, character-rich portrait of a self-absorbed Anatolian hotelier and his uneasy relationships with those around him, won the Palme d’Or at the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night. It’s only the second film by a Turkish director to win the festival’s highest honor, after Yilmaz Guney and Serif Goren’s “The Way” (1982).

The Grand Prix, the festival’s second-place honor, was presented to “The Wonders,” Italian director Alice Rohrwacher’s semi-autobiographical drama about a family of beekeepers struggling to preserve their way of life in central Italy.

Although the top two prizes were given to non-English-language fare, the Jane Campion-led competition jury spread the love around and recognized two of the starriest entries in competition, bestowing a directing prize on Bennett Miller for “Foxcatcher” and an acting award on Julianne Moore for “Maps to the Stars.”

Ceylan’s Palme d’Or win marked the culmination of a fairly consistent winning streak for the Turkish auteur, who has twice received the festival’s second-place honor, the Grand Prix for 2002’s “Distant” and 2011’s “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and who won a directing prize for 2008’s “Three Monkeys.” Only Ceylan’s 2006 competition entry, “Climates,” went unrecognized by the festival jury, though it did win the Fipresci international critics’ prize.

“This is a great surprise for me,” Ceylan said when he took the stage, noting that it was perhaps a fitting choice in a year that marked the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema. Tacitly acknowledging the 2013-14 Gezi Park protests that swept across his home country and led to the deaths of 11 people, the director said, “I want to dedicate the prize to all the young people of Turkey, including those who lost their lives” over the past year, he said.

Although it divided critics and audiences with its reams of dialogue and challenging 196-minute running time, “Winter Sleep” became an early critics’ favorite and Palme contender when it screened on the festival’s third day. Considerably more surprising for those in attendance at the Palais des Festivals was the announcement of the Grand Prix for “The Wonders,” which had drawn largely favorable if even-keeled reviews. It’s the second feature from the 33-year-old Rohrwacher, whose debut, “Corpo celeste,” premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar in 2011.

“We all felt it was an incredible spiritual film (with) terrific performances,” juror Nicolas Winding Refn said at the press conference held immediately after the ceremony. “I cried at the end. I was taken into another world.”

Adding an extra note of irony to Rohrwacher’s victory was the fact that the festival had been rife with speculation that the other female director in competition, Japanese helmer Naomi Kawase, would win a major prize for her latest drama, “Still the Water.” But Kawase, who previously won the Grand Prix for 2007’s “The Mourning Forest” and the Camera d’Or for her 1997 debut, “Suzaku,” came up empty-handed, throwing cold water on early rumors that she would prevail as a result of some deliberate feminist statement by Campion’s jury.

“The gender of the filmmakers never entered our discussions,” Campion said at the press conference. “We were moved by and responded to the films.”

It wasn’t the only question about gender politics Campion had to fend off, as she did when one journalist took issue with Ceylan’s depiction of women in “Winter Sleep.”

“When you portray an ideal, you’re betraying reality and that’s no help to anybody. If I had the guts to be as honest as this director is about his characters, I’d be proud of myself,” Campion said. She noted that while she was worried she’d need a bathroom break during the three-hour-plus film, “I could have stayed there for another couple of hours. It was so masterful. I saw myself in all the characters.”

Scoring big on his first trip to one of the major European film festivals, Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) was a popular choice for directing honors for “Foxcatcher,” his tense, well-acted crime drama about the complex psychological triangle that ensnared Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz (played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) and the Pennsylvania millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell).

“This is quite affirming, and I’m very grateful,” Miller said in his speech.

Moore drew the actress prize for her ferocious turn as a washed-up Hollywood star in David Cronenberg’s Tinseltown satire “Maps to the Stars.” With Moore not present at the ceremony, the film’s writer, Bruce Wagner, accepted the award on her behalf.

In another nod to one of the competition’s high-profile English-lingo entries, Timothy Spall won the actor prize for his performance as the painter J.M.W. in Leigh’s “Mr. Turner.” He joins his “Secrets & Lies” co-star Brenda Blethyn and “Naked’s” David Thewlis, both of whom also received thesping honors at Cannes for their work with the British director.

“I’ve spent a lot of time being a bridesmaid. This is the first time I’ve ever been a bride, so I’m quite pleased about that,” Spall said in a long, moving acceptance speech. Noting that “this is as much an accolade for Mr. Leigh as it is for me,” the actor reminisced about the year when “Secrets & Lies” won the Palme d’Or, during which he was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia.

“I thank God that I’m still here and alive,” he said.

The jury prize, essentially third place, was shared by two films from the competition’s youngest and oldest helmers, respectively: “Mommy,” from 25-year-old Canadian director Xavier Dolan, and “Goodbye to Language,” from 83-year-old French New Wave icon Jean-Luc Godard. While the news of the tie decision was greeted by a round of lusty boos from some of his fans in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, Dolan gave a gracious and emotional speech in which he paid personal tribute to Campion, citing her 1993 Palme winner, “The Piano,” as one of the first and most influential films he watched as a teenager.

“Your ‘Piano’ made me want to write roles for women, beautiful roles with soul and will and strength. Not victims, not objects,” Dolan said.

Campion returned the compliment in her remarks at the press conference. “I love ‘Mommy’ so much such a great, brilliant, modern film,” she said.

Refn also praised “Mommy,” noting that it was part of a technological revolution that had greatly democratized the art of cinema. “Filmmaking is no longer the elitist club it was 100 years ago,” he said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Remarking on the tie between “Mommy” and “Goodbye to Language,” Campion said she was “really blown away” by the Godard film, which was presented in 3D. “A lot of us directors really owe our lifeblood to Godard and we’re so thankful to have had this opportunity to give him a prize.”

Godard was not in attendance at the ceremony or at the festival, having had to cancel his appearance despite an early assurance to Cannes delegate general Thierry Fremaux that he would attend.

Although hotly tipped as a late threat for the Palme, the critically adored Russian drama “Leviathan” had to content itself with a screenplay prize for helmer Andrey Zvyagintsev and his co-writer, Oleg Negin. Still, it was hardly a bad day for the film, which Sony Classics announced it was acquiring for U.S. distribution mere hours before the ceremony.

Indeed, Sony Classics emerged a multiple winner on Saturday night, having laid claim to three prizewinners: “Foxcatcher,” “Mr. Turner” and “Leviathan.” Always a major player on the Croisette, the distributor proved especially dominant this year, holding U.S. distribution rights to Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” and Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent” (both in competition), Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home” (out of competition), Gabe Polsky’s documentary “Red Army” (Special Screenings) and Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” (Directors’ Fortnight).

“It is kind of Sony Classics’ finest moment in Cannes, because it represents our whole slate,” Sony Classics co-topper Michael Barker told Variety, though he noted his disappointment that “Wild Tales,” from “one of the freshest new directors on the international scene that I can think of,” didn’t win a prize.

Barker expressed particular enthusiasm for “Leviathan,” which he expected to play well with North American audiences. As Zvyagintsev noted during his press conference, the film has already drawn some criticism from Russia’s cultural minister (whose bureau helped finance it), and it could conceivably generate controversy for its blistering attacks on past and present Russian political leadership.

“People want to know how people live in Russia today,” Barker said. “The quality of this film will cause it to have a lot of support.”

Two critically lauded competition entries that were shut out entirely from Saturday’s awards were Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” which did win an award from the festival’s ecumenical jury, and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Two Days, One Night,” which had been widely expected to win best actress for Marion Cotillard. It marks the first time that the two-time Palme d’Or-winning Belgian brothers have returned home from Cannes without a prize.

In addition to Campion and Refn, the jury included Willem Dafoe, Carole Bouquet, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeon Do-yeon, Jia Zhangke and Leila Hatami.

The Camera d’Or for best first film was given to “Party Girl,” a three-way directing debut for French helmers Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis. The film, which opened the Un Certain Regard sidebar, had already received an ensemble acting prize the night before.

(Peter Debruge and Scott Foundas contributed to this report.)

COMPETITION

Palme d’Or: “Winter Sleep” (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey-Germany-France)

Grand Prix: “The Wonders” (Alice Rohrwacher, Italy-Switzerland-Germany)

Director: Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher” (U.S.)

Actor: Timothy Spall, “Mr. Turner” (Mike Leigh, U.K.-France-Germany)

Actress: Julianne Moore, “Maps to the Stars” (David Cronenberg, Canada-Germany)

Jury Prize (tie): “Mommy” (Xavier Dolan, Canada) and “Goodbye to Language” (Jean-Luc Godard, France)

Screenplay: Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, “Leviathan” (Russia)

OTHER PRIZES

Camera d’Or: “Party Girl” (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis)

Short Films Palme d’Or: “Leidi” (Simon Mesa Soto)

Short Films Special Mention: “Aissa” (Clement Trehin-Lalanne)

Ecumenical Jury Prize: “Timbuktu” (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania-France)

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Un Certain Regard Prize: “White God” (Kornel Mundruczo, Hungary-Germany-Sweden)

Jury prize: “Force Majeure” (Ruben Ostlund, Sweden-France-Denmark-Norway)

Special Prize: “The Salt of the Earth” (Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, France-Italy)

Ensemble: “Party Girl” (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis, France)

Actor: David Gulpilil, “Charlie’s Country” (Rolf de Heer, Australia)

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

Art Cinema Award: “Les Combattants” (Thomas Cailley, France)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “Les Combattants”

Europa Cinemas Label: “Les Combattants”

CRITICS’ WEEK

Grand Prize: “The Tribe” (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine)

Visionary Prize: “The Tribe”

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “Hope” (Boris Lojkine, France)

FIPRESCI

Competition: “Winter Sleep”

Un Certain Regard: “Jauja” (Lisandro Alonso, Denmark-U.S.-Argentina)

Directors’ Fortnight: “Les Combattants”

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  1. Y says:

    I think unfortunately, the decision not to award Timbuktu anything- even perhaps the top prize- was a political one. This is a quiet, playful, finely observed art film… whose plot concerns the absurdity and cruelty of fundamentalist religion in the jihadist takeover of Mali and particularly the vendetta against two lovers, making it the only movie in competition other than the Dardennes’ that has any sort of direct contemporary relevance (Leviathan sounds like it’s more allegorical). The fact that the film (unlike the Dardennes’ work) lacks a falsely feel good ending, and everyone who has actually seen the film praises it for its subtlety, beauty and complexity, does not make up for the fact that if reduced to a plot outline (as the world’s news media will no doubt reduce it) it would come off to the Muslim world as rich Hollywood celebrities in Africa’s colonial master France (and one traitorous, French-kiss-loving Iranian) awarding a film about the evil of Muslim fundamentalists, just another product of the French propaganda machine. Likewise in Europe and America it might find fans among the political right and would be celebrated as some kind of justification for ongoing anti-Muslim crusades and wars. Fans of the film (of which I have no doubt there were many on the jury- definitely Jia Zhangke, given the proximity of his and Sissako’s work, and probably even Leila Hatami) possibly wanted to shield it from being widely known by the majority of the world that will never actually see it. Their decision will prevent Sissako- a far greater and more original master than Ceylan- from receiving his due, and prevent African cinema as a whole from escaping the simplistic colonial ghetto into which it has been placed. The refusal to allow an African to criticize an African problem (a murderous sharia rule) in the most sensitive way, because it might have unpleasant political resonances in the western world, is frankly racist, but one can understand their reasoning. This is a very sensitive subject, particularly given French military involvement in Africa and the current Boko Haram campaign (which was apparently planned by that group when they were holed up in northern Mali). Sissako is probably glad his film is at least not going to become a political tool. It may even have a more positive impact in Africa as a result of the European artistic establishment’s indifference. And thanks to excellent reviews it has already been picked up for US release, a major triumph for an African art film, given the anti-artistic and white-supremacist biases of the distribution system here. Of course it will probably just play for three days and only in one theatre in New York…

  2. onmedea says:

    “OMDB” was completely robbed!

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