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Bergman to get special Cannes salute

ROME — Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman will receive the special Palm of Palms award, to be presented as part of the 50th anniversary celebration at next month’s Cannes Film Festival.

The anniversary award is voted by all surviving winners of Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d’Or; the new kudos is designed to honor a great director whose films have competed on the Croisette in the past without obtaining the recognition they deserved. Participants were given a list of about 12 names from whom to choose.

While fest officials have endeavored to keep the special award recipient’s name under wraps, news was leaked to the Swedish press in the past week.

Bergman, who is now 78, rarely travels to attend film events or accept awards, but reportedly will make the trip to Cannes for the award handout, which will take place May 11. French president Jacques Chirac is strongly tipped to attend that ceremony.

Bergman’s powerful depictions of human suffering and solitude made him one of the most important figures of world cinema from the 1950s through the ’70s, with such films as “Wild Strawberries,” “Persona” and “Cries and Whispers.”

He retired from filmmaking following his 1982 family portrait “Fanny and Alexander,” which capped a prolific career spanning almost 40 years.

Considering Bergman’s international critical stature, the director has had a rough ride with Cannes competition juries over the years.

His first appearance was at the second edition of Cannes, in 1947, when the jury made a special point of expressing its regret that two outstanding titles, one of which was Bergman’s “A Ship Bound for India,” failed to make the honors list.

He returned in 1956 with “Smiles of a Summer Night,” which also missed out on a major award, landing an eccentric accolade known as the Prix de l’Humour Poetique. Bergman’s next appearance was in ’57 with perhaps his best-known film, “The Seventh Seal,” which won the Special Jury Prize but again walked away Palm-less.

In 1958, “So Close to Life” brought Bergman closer to the main prize, winning him best director and a collective best actress award for the film’s four female leads.

In 1960, the jury acknowledged that Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” and Luis Bunuel’s “The Young One” were major works, but declared itself reluctant to diminish the prestige of the Palme d’Or by giving it to more than one film. The award went instead to Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.”

(Derek Elley in London contributed to this report.)