Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz emerged triumphant in tonight’s Un Certain Regard awards, as his grand-scale period melodrama “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão” received the top prize from jury president Nadine Labaki. The “Capernaum” director and her fellow jurors demonstrated eclectic taste in the ceremony, ultimately handing honors to eight of the 18 feature films competing in the festival’s second most high-profile showcase.
Aïnouz was a popular winner in the room, as his lushly shot drama — about two devoted sisters separated by crossed stars and familial shame in 1950s Rio de Janeiro — appealed to audiences with its openly emotive traditional storytelling and strong feminist politics.
It’s the seventh narrative feature by the 53-year-old writer-director, also an accomplished docmaker, who previously competed in Un Certain Regard with his debut, “Madame Sata,” in 2002. In his speech, he alluded to Brazil’s current political woes, thanking the jury for their recognition while “we are going through something that is very, very hard, to do with intolerance.” “Eurídice Gusmão,” which is still seeking U.S. distribution, will be considered a strong contender for Brazil’s international Oscar submission.
The runner-up Jury Prize, meanwhile, was presented to French-born Galician filmmaker Oliver Laxe for “Fire Will Come,” at atmospherically spare, pastoral parable set in the director’s parents’ homeland, following a convicted arsonist settling back into rural life after his release from prison. Laxe previously won the Cannes Critics’ Week competition for his 2016 debut feature “Mimosas”; his follow-up was one of the most ecstatically received in the program.
Another critical favorite, 27-year-old Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov’s sophomore effort “Beanpole,” received the Best Director prize — before this year’s Cannes lineup was announced, it was rumored to be in line for a Competition spot. Variety critic Jessica Kiang described the harrowing drama, about two young women rebuilding their lives in post-WWII Leningrad, as “a slow, ferocious, and extraordinary second film from [a] blazing talent.”
A special award, the Coup de Coeur, was shared between two titles, Quebecois filmmaker Monia Chokri’s “A Brother’s Love,” which opened the program to mixed reviews, and U.S. writer-director-actor Michael Angelo Covino’s “The Climb,” a well-received comedic study of troubled male friendship described by Variety as “a clever, open-souled debut feature.” It’s been a good day for Covino: Earlier, it was announced that Sony Pictures Classics has picked up “The Climb” for U.S. distribution.
More contentiously, two divisive films from widely revered auteurs were recognized. Spanish formalist Albert Serra, meanwhile, disappointed many with his period provocation “Liberté,” which explicitly chronicles a debauched overnight orgy between 18th-century libertines in the French countryside. The film, which features graphic penetration, S&M and urolagnia, prompted multiple walkouts during its premiere; it too received a special jury prize.
A special jury mention, meanwhile, went to French veteran Bruno Dumont’s “Joan of Arc,” the second part of his experimental semi-musical biopic of the Maid of Orléans. It earned some of festival’s more withering reviews, with Variety‘s critic declaring it “a slog”; its predecessor, “Jeanette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc,” bowed in Directors’ Fortnight two years ago.
French acting royalty was honored in the form of Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni, who received the best performance award for her turn as a woman leaving her husband after 20 years of marriage in Christophe Honoré’s comedy “On a Magical Night.”
Labaki’s fellow jurors included directors Lisandro Alonso and Lukas Dhont (an Un Certain Regard competitor last year for his transgender drama “Girl”), French thesp Marina Foïs and German producer Nurhan Sekerci-Porst.
Full list of winners:
Un Certain Regard Prize: “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão,” Karim Aïnouz
Jury Prize: “Fire Will Come,” Oliver Laxe
Best Director: Kantemir Balagov, “Beanpole”
Best Performance: Chiara Mastroianni, “On a Magical Night”
Special Jury Prize: Albert Serra, “Liberté”
Special Jury Mention: “Joan of Arc,” Bruno Dumont
Coup de Coeur Award: “A Brother’s Love,” Monia Chokri; “The Climb,” Michael Angelo Covino