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Monday, June 11, 2012

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The last day of the Cannes Festival is our chance to catch up with screenings of films we’ve missed out on, and to corner the actors who’ve flown in for the grand ceremony for interviews. I’m slated to meet Arjun Rampal, who along with director Sudhir Mishra, will reveal the first look of their upcoming film Kaam.
I spend some time lounging at the beach. The stalls temporarily erected on the private beaches are being torn down, and even the water sounds tired after a fortnight of excitement. It’s finally time for the red carpet arrivals. Jean Dujardin walks in, complete with all his smiles from The Artist, but missing the moustache. His co-star from the film, Berenice Bejo, is due to host the closing event. We see the cast and crew of Therese Desquereaux, the closing film that will be screened after the awards ceremony.
The Grand Théâtre Lumière has been done up so we can hardly believe this was the same place where all those morning films were screened. And everything seems so French even the Americans try to speak it, which means a lot of us are blinking and trying to understand what on earth these folks are saying.
And then, the winners begin to roll out. The Camera D’Or, given to the best debut film and decided by an independent jury, goes to Benh Zeitlin for his fable-like Beasts of the Southern Wild, a dreamy story with a 6-year-old narrator who lives “south of the levee” in a place called The Bathtub with her father, and a sundry collective of people who watch out for each other, and fight the order to evacuate.
Receiving the award as his first-time crew look on in awe, Zeitlin speaks of how being at Cannes is crazy, because it’s like the temple when you’re growing up. “This is such a wild movie, and you don’t know whether you’re allowed to dance in the temple, and it’s great to know that you can. Thanks to the jury, you’ve changed many good people’s lives.”
Then, the main jury steps out. Diane Kruger sports a crinoline, to everyone’s bewilderment, but her faux pas is outdone by Andrea Arnold, who steps out in some crazy black-white-and-still-psychedelic thing that could have been leopard print. She tops it off with a furry black wrap that camouflages some of the horror of her costume. But everyone feels for Jean-Paul Gaultier, the flamboyant designer who’s part of the jury.
The first award from the main jury is the Prix Du Jury, or the Jury Prize, which goes to Ken Loach for his hilarious heist film Angels’ Share. Loach, like all posh Britons, speaks French for as long as he can, and then finishes with, “Cannes shows us that cinema is not just a diversion, but something that shows us who we are, and how we live together.” He thanks the jury for showing support to those people who “in these dark times” resist privatisation and cuts and job losses. Yeah, his film was a layered comedy. He even picked people off the street to act in the film, perhaps to make a statement.
The award for Best Screenplay goes to Cristian Mungui for Dupa Dealuri (Beyond the Hills), a story based on a real-life incident – the attempted exorcism of a girl in an orthodox convent in Romania, which eventually led to the girl’s death.
“Since this is inspired by a true story, I want to say behind the story there are people who really suffered. We can’t hope to fix the past with film, but we can change the future a little bit,” he says.
The film goes on to win the Best Actress Awards – the award is shared by its lead actors, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan. Both are first time actors in a film, and they speak of how overwhelmed they are.  They tell us they just jumped off a plane, “four minutes ago” and thank everyone who’s had an opinion about the film. Flutur dedicates the win to Mungiu, “for everything he has given me, and his wonderful way of working with actors.” Stratan says ditto, and then goes on to thank her “mother, father, sister, uncle and boyfriend”, and giggles.
The award is presented by Alec Baldwin, who speaks about the enormous difficulties that come with being an actor. “You have to come to Cannes, and you have to wear a tuxedo, and you have to walk the red carpet, and you have to give away the award for Best Actress.”
At the press conference later, Mungiu says he found Flutur on the internet, and felt there was something about her face that would make her ideal for the role he envisioned. The phrase “found on the internet” gets all of us giggling – yes, watching five movies a day for two weeks does mess a little bit with the brain. Cosmina Stratan was a journalist who’d come to interview him, and he decided that he wanted to work with her for his next film.
The Best Actor award draws huge cheers from the audience – it goes to Mads Mikkelsen for Jagten, in which he plays a kindergarten teacher who is accused of child molestation. When he takes the stage, he says, “I’m touched, I’m really touched. And this is really a surprise.” He goes on to dedicate the award to three women, and says, “Yes, those are my three wives.” He then adds, “No, no, I’m kidding. My wife and daughters. Most importantly, more than eighty percent, maybe eighty-two percent, I want to share the award with Thomas Vinterberg.”
At the press conference that follows, he tells us he had no idea he had won, and found out about it sitting in the theatre. The organisers hadn’t been able to reach him, and he happened to be here to represent the film, because “Thomas (Vinterberg, the director) is having a baby at the moment, right now.”
The prize for the Best Director goes to Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas for Post Tenebras Lux, a beautiful film that weaves together the personal story of a family with vivid, powerful images, some from the director’s childhood dreams, as he said earlier.
In a tongue-in-cheek comment, he thanks the press for their support in writing about the film. Opinions on the film have been heavily divided, and most of the Western press didn’t quite like it. When the jury, breaking tradition, holds a press conference, president Nanni Moretti says it was one of the films that really divided the jury, along with Paradise and Holy Motors.
The Grand Prix of the jury goes to Italian director Matteo Garone for his film Reality, which takes us through the changes in psyche of a man who becomes obsessed with being on Bigg Brother.
Finally, French actress Audrey Tautou and Adrien Brody take the stage to announce the Palme D’Or. After Tatou’s long introduction in French, Brody begins by quoting Woody Allen in saying, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve it through not dying.” He then slips into French. Finally, the winner is announced – Michael Haneke for his film Amour, which focuses on an octogenarian couple, and what they would do for each other.
We are then rushed into the press conference room, to meet the jury. This is the first time they will speak about the awards at the Cannes. In the past years, the jury was not allowed to explain their choices.
Once the conference happens, some of us are convinced it will be the last. For one, Andrea Arnold bites a reporter’s head off for asking Jean-Paul Gaultier which film had the best costumes.
“I want to say that’s a really stupid question,” the woman director says, and goes on to speak of Gaultier’s intelligence, and his sense of cinema, and slams the journalist for making it about the clothes. She then apologises, and says she’s a little drunk.
The next question turns out to be even more inane – someone says 7 of the 22 films in competition were from North America, including Canada, and asks Alexander Payne, who’s on the jury, how he’ll feel going back to America. Payne looks startled, and then makes a show of slamming down his headphones in mock rage.
Gaultier comes to the rescue, and says he and Emanuelle Devos have to continue to live in France, after not selecting a French director or actor for the awards, though the language of the winning film happened to be French.
The jury disperses and the prizewinners start walking in. Benh Zeitlin, whose crew hangs out by the door, endearingly taking pictures of him in his big moment, is asked whether he expects to see his film nominated for the Oscars. He laughs, and speaks about how he hadn’t expected the film to make it this far, and how one is never thinking about awards, just about getting it out there, when he’s making his first film.
“Are you always this wired? You can relax now, you know,” the moderator Henri Behar says, as Zeitlin looks around constantly, and nods, and rubs his hands together.
“Oh, no, I’m always like this,” Benh laughs, before running off to the after-party.
All the winners troop in after that, and Carlos Reygadas tries balancing his citation on his head while he does a victory jump. Several predictable questions later, the curtains finally fall.
And thus ends Cannes 2012.


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