Kaurismäki, Sorrentino among early Cannes winners

Posted by · 2:59 pm · May 21st, 2011

The Cannes Film Festival closes up shop tomorrow with the announcement of the Competition awards — the final competing film, Radu Mihaileanu’s “The Source,” screened this morning to a tepid reception. Before we get to that, however, a wide array of smaller juries have their own trophies to dish out, and a number of them did so tonight.

I’ve just returned from the tuxes-and-sneakers affair that is the Un Certain Regard awards ceremony, followed by a screening of one of their prizewinners, Andrei Zvyagintsev’s stunning “Elena.” (I’ll review the film later, but for now, allow to express my bafflement that this remarkable work wasn’t in Competition, particular when the director’s previous film, no more impressive a work, was.)

There, a jury led by previous Palme d’Or winner Emir Kusturica (choice quote in opening speech: “I was the darling of this festival, and I did not behave myself very well”) infuriated critics across the Croisette by handing half their top prize (in a tie) to one of the festival’s worst-reviewed films: Kim Ki-duk’s documentary on himself, “Arirang.” It’s a handy reminder that critical response should never be the key consideration when predicting festival awards.

One award where the critics do get their away, of course, is the FIPRESCI Prize, awarded to the film a panel of international critics believe is the best in Competition. Tonight, they surprised no one by picking one of the festival’s most widely liked films, Aki Kaurismäki’s comedy “Le Havre,” which is currently the bookies’ favorite to take the Palme tomorrow. More often than not, the FIPRESCI jury’s pick doesn’t match that of the main Competition jury, though recent films to have won over both include “The White Ribbon” and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.”

FIPRESCI also name winners in the festival’s other strands: their Un Certain Regard pick is “The Minister” (generally known on the Croisette as “the one with the naked woman and the alligator”), while they echoed the Critics’ Week jury by giving buzzy US indie “Take Shelter” its third award in two days.

Always interesting, if often inscrutable, are the selections of the Ecumenical Jury, an independent panel which aims to honor films “which touch the spiritual dimension of our existence” — often a byword for religious-themed or humanistic fare. This year, the award is more noteworthy for what didn’t win than what did: despite effectively having “ecumenical” written on it in block capitals, “The Tree of Life” was ignored. Instead, Paolo Sorrentino’s rambling road-trip comedy “This Must Be the Place” — the spiritual subtext of which is rather more oblique — took the prize. I thought Sorrentino’s film a tone-deaf folly, though it has its admirers. By giving “Le Havre” a special mention, meanwhile, the Ecumenical Jury further proved the widespread appeal of Kaurismäki’s frontrunner.

To return to the Un Certain Regard section for a moment, I was reminded of how much I missed in that section this year when “Elena” turned out to be the only one of the jury’s picks I’d seen. I was, however, pleased to see one of my favorite films in the strand, young South African director Oliver Hermanus’ sophomore feature “Skoonheid,” take the Queer Palme for the festival’s best gay-themed film — not the most hotly contested award, but an award nonetheless. (A review of that one is also in order — expect one or two Cannes straggler pieces next week.)

Un Certain Regard Prize: (tie) “Arirang,” Kim Ki-duk; “Stopped on Track,” Andreas Dresen
Special Jury Prize: “Elena,” Andrei Zvyagintsev
Best Director: Mohammad Rasoulof, “Au Revoir”

FIPRESCI Prize (Competition): “Le Havre,” Aki Kaurismäki
FIPRESCI Prize (Un Certain Regard): “The Minister,” Pierre Schoeller
FIPRESCI Prize (Critics’ Week): “Take Shelter,” Jeff Nichols

Prize of the Ecumenical Jury: “This Must Be the Place,” Paolo Sorrentino
Special Mentions: “Le Havre,” Aki Kaurismäki; “Where Do We Go Now?,” Nadine Labaki

Queer Palme: “Skoonheid,” Oliver Hermanus

→ 7 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

7 responses so far

  • 1 5-21-2011 at 3:21 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I absolutely love Zvyagintsev’s “The Return” from 2003.

  • 2 5-21-2011 at 3:28 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    His latest, I think, is at least as good.

  • 3 5-21-2011 at 3:30 pm

    Julian said...

    I’m from Denmark, so it won’t come as a surprise that I’m rooting for Refn and Von Trier (well, that won’t happen, I know) when it comes to the Palme D’or tomorrow night. I was delighted to see your very positive reaction to both films, Guy…I must say, I consider both directors to be among the most interesting directors currently working in the business (outside the mainstream). I’m naturally biased due to my nationality, I’m well aware of that…;)
    On another, though related, note: I was surprised to find out that Refn dissed Von Trier at his press conference. Von Trier has had a long working relationship with Nicholas’ father, Anders, who shot some of VT’s earlier films. I believe VT considers “the Refns” as family of sorts, so he was clearly taken aback by Refn’s dismissal of his comments. Refn could have used the occasion to try and explain VT’s often odd behavior, but he just deemed him “unacceptable”. Fair enough, but a major disappointment in VT’s view, I’m sure.
    And let me just state for the record (this is obvious for anyone who knows VT and has read and seen hundreds of interviews with him in his native tongue): VT is NOT a racist, fascist etc. He is a liberal in every sense of the word. Furthermore he has ofted stated his admiration of Jewish culture.
    His fascination with Nazi aesthetics is no surprise, really. Who would not recognize the visual flair of Riefenstahl, Speer et al…?? The “death cult” symbolism of the Nazi regime is extremely interesting to anybody with just a fleeting interest in European history, art, politics etc.

  • 4 5-21-2011 at 6:06 pm

    red_wine said...

    The FIPRESCI prize is a significant and prestigious prize and it is interesting that it went to Le Havre. They always make good choices even when the disagree with the actual jury. Their last year’s eyebrow-raising pick Tournée (for people just reading the coverage from afar) proved to be a superb choice when I saw the film many months later.

    Guy, your readers feel just as out of the loop as you do on Le Havre as we majorly see the festival through your eyes. Needless to say Le Havre does seem to be the front-runner as is being suggested in all quarters but I hope you get a chance to see it soon and share your thoughts with us. It will be a shame if having went to Cannes you miss the Palme winner itself.

  • 5 5-21-2011 at 7:16 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Don’t worry, I’m seeing Le Havre tomorrow.

  • 6 5-21-2011 at 9:35 pm

    Amir said...

    Rasoulof, the Un Certain Regard director winner, couldn’t have picked his award in person as far as I know since he’s detained in Iran alongside Jafar Panahi. Funny, I didn’t even know his last feature was screening there, and I find it interesting that it did because it must have been made quite some time ago. He’s been in jail for a good few months now.

  • 7 5-22-2011 at 1:18 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Amir: Yes, his wife accepted the award on his behalf.