Awards ceremony full of surprises at the 2014 Cannes Festival


By    Ioan Lazar in Cannes

No awards ceremony has ever managed to please everybody. Every member of the jury and the jury president, in particular, has a considerable say in devising the final list. This year’s edition of the most prestigious film festival in the world, the Cannes festival, did not stray from the abovementioned rule. All we can do is accept and reflect upon it.
The ceremony unfolded under curious circumstances as the over 4,000 accredited reporters barely had time to pack their bags and get on the Nice bus to the airport after they had learned the event was to take place one day earlier than usual. Lines started forming around the Palais area much earlier than 7.00 p.m. on Saturday. The awards ceremony began dryly on time. The Jury President, director Jane Campion, was handed the microphone to announce the winners in each category.
Wintersleep produced by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan was awarded Palme d’Or. The news came as no surprise and was in fact foreseen by many film critics given its good and very good scores. The film’s minimalist portrayal of humanity captured in the story of people living in isolation in a hotel located in central Anatolia surely played a significant role, as well, in this big win. The charming couple who arrived on stage to present the award consisted of director Quentin Tarantino and actress Uma Thurman.
Yet audiences were taken aback when the Grand Prix went to The Wonders by Alice Rohrwacher, a young filmmaker, not necessarily because the film was unworthy, but rather because it flew under the critics’ radar. The famous Italian actress Sophia Loren handed the award. The Wonders / Le Meraviglie is about a family of beekeepers from a region near Tuscany, where the director was born. The role of young Gelsomina was played by a film industry-outsider, Romanian native Maria Alexandra Lungu. Her performance as the main lead was remarkable.
American director Bennet Miller won the Award for Best Director for Foxcatcher about the struggle of a professional athlete in the last years of his career as a coach sponsored by an overly ambitious club owner.
The Jury Prize was awarded ex aequo to the festival’s oldest and youngest filmmakers, namely virtuoso Jean Luc Godard (for Goodbye to Language) and Montreal-born Xavier Dolan for Mommy, a story about children and parents, a mother and a boy, facing tense situations amplified by the son’s unstable behavior.
One of the other unexpected results of the 2014 Cannes festival was the Russian Andrey Zvyagintsev, co-screenwriter for Leviathan alongside Oleg Negin, winning the Award for Best Screenplay.
After much heated debate about the performances of this year’s nominees, the jury opted for Julianne Moore who played the main character in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, and Timothy Spall the lead in Mr. Turner by Mike Leigh.
The Palme d’Or for the short film category went to Leidi (Simon Mesa Soto), in which the plot revolves around family conflicts. Camera d’or was awarded to a team-effort film presented in the Un Certain Regard section, Party Girl.
The jury’s selection of winners seems to have centered on the more painful aspects of life, and yet if we accept this premise, we should acknowledge that other films should have made the cut.
This news report would not be complete without mentioning the very warm welcome – endless applause coupled with standing ovations – of Gilles Jacob, the Festival President, acting in this capacity for the last time. Octogenarian Sophia Loren was also greeted affectionately by the audience and celebrated for her remarkable career in cinema.
It Can Pass Through the Wall by Radu Jude – Mentioned at Quinzaine des Realisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight)
Considering that Romanian cinema was not as richly represented in this edition of the Cannes festival as in the past, the jury’s remarks can only confirm the talent of our young filmmakers.
We should thus note the significance of the honorable mention of Radu Jude’s Trece si prin zid / It Can Pass Through the Wall, a short film inspired by A.P. Chekhov’s short story “In the Coach-House.”  The playwright’s story has been adapted to modern times and placed in Bucharest, and often makes references to recognizable public figures and areas.
A grandfather (Ion Arcudeanu) plays checkers with a friend, Bondar (Gabriel Spahiu), in a room. Little Sofia (impressively portrayed by Sofia Niculescu, acclaimed and awarded for her role in Everybody in Our Family by the same director), now left under the care of the elderly man, starts hearing strange noises from the adjoining house. Unable to sleep, she listens as her mother advises her grandpa on the phone to stop playing checkers and tell the girl a story. The plot also brings about discussions about suicide and the dead, and the overall mood is well-constructed and highly suggestive. It Can Pass Through the Wall was produced independently by a team of young cinematographers. Marius Panduru was in charge of the image, Catalin Cristutiu provided the montage, and Dana Bunescu was responsible for the sound.
We remind our readers that Radu Jude was included in the same category – Directors’ Fortnight – in last year’s edition of the festival for O umbra de nor / Shadow of a Cloud.

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