The 67th Cannes Festival was capped with a lively closing ceremony last night. There were tears, there was comedy and there was scandal. Some of the night’s victories were well-deserved—Timothy Spall’s winning of the best actor prize was a fait accompli, his turn as the British painter Turner in Mike Leigh’s romanticized biopic rating well above par. Xavier Dolan sharing his prize with French new wave octogenarian Jean-Luc Godard must have been Jane Campion’s idea of New-zealander humor, but I’m not laughing.
Upon receiving his prize Timothy Spall did a very entertaining, and probably unintended, bit during which he told the audience that he had keyed his speech into his mobile phone and that his battery had been running low as he tried to extirpate it. Spall’s turned out to be the longest speech of the night.
For his gratifying and riotously inventive “Mommy” Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan was attributed the Jury’s Prize, ex-aequo with Jean-Luc Godard (yes, that Jean-Luc Godard. He’s still making movies). Attributing this award jointly to a very young filmmaker (Dolan is twenty-five) and one who is junior only to Manoel de Oliveira (or close, probably) is just strange.
What does that say about the jury, made up of Sofia Coppola, Nicholas Winding Refn and Leila Hatami, among others? How do we measure individual achievement in light of this bittersweet win for Dolan? Godard never won anything in Cannes, and he obviously should have. But for “Breathless,” not “Adieu au langage,” an infernal 3-D meditation on philosophers, dog and scatology. I smell the pungent odor of political correctness.
And Godard? Well, he did not bother to come to Cannes, to support his own film or show up at the awards ceremony—and we forgive him for it—but sent a thoughtful video to festival director Thierry Frémaux explaining his absence away in a tired, gravelly voice (look for this video in SIDEBAR)
I were scrappy and young Xavier Dolan I would be upset. Jane Campion’s jury stole his thunder. After several passages through Cannes with films in non-competition programs, this year Dolan was angling for a Palme win and a lot of people, this writer included, were behind him.
But instead of crying “bloody murder” Dolan sobbed from gratitude and, after walking onto the stage to accept his (share of the) prize he turned to Jane Campion seated a few feet away with her jury and gave an impassioned tribute to the director for her work with “The Piano.”
Now that’s what I call classy.
Later that evening, still feeling a bit unnerved by the Dolan-Godard win I spoke with Michelle Levieux of French media l’Humanité (she’s got about forty years’ worth of Cannes in her). She reminded me of the precision work that juries are obliged to perform in judging the films and how the paucity of prize categories in Cannes (there are seven in total) sometimes lead to the ex-aequo, i.e., “shared” prize giving, being the best alternative for acknowledging multiple filmmakers.
Before long (the Cannes ceremony, unlike our own Oscars, is brief and fluid) it was announced by Jane Campion, at the behest of Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman (they traveled to Cannes accompanied by Harvey Keitel, John Travolta and Harvey Weinstein for the twentieth anniversary of “Pulp Fiction”) that Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Winter Sleep” had won the Palme D’Or, the top award in Cannes.
“Winter Sleep” was the shoo-in this year for this award, so this came as no surprise. In it a retired actor-turned-hotelier contends with an existentialist crisis and marriage-related problems. This was the most accomplished film of this year’s otherwise tepid selection, by far. In his acceptance speech Ceylan dedicated his win to the youths of Turkey who died in this past year at Taksim square.
Palme D’Or: “Winter Sleep” (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Grand Prix: “Le Meraviglie” (Alice Rohrwacher)
Best Directing: Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Jury’s Prize (ex-aequo): “Mommy” (Xavier Dolan) and “Adieu au langage” (Jean-Luc Godard)
Best Screenplay: Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev for “Leviathan”
Best Male Actor: Timothy Spall for “Mr. Turner”
Best Female Actress: Julianne Moore for “Maps to the stars”