Film-geek Francophiles everywhere rejoice!
For the first time since 1987, a French film, “The Class” — a drama about a teacher challenged by his tough, inner-city students in one of Paris’ roughest junior high schools — has taken home the prestigious Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Rock on, Frenchies!
And that was the first of many surprising wins at this afternoon’s closing ceremonies, where the Jury seemed to take iconoclastic Jury President Sean Penn’s recent statements to French daily Le Monde to heart.
Urging his fellow jurors to “do just the opposite” of the Oscars “where manipulation and very good marketing are rewarded” Penn implored the Cannes jury to honor compelling, unconventional films instead, and man alive, did they take his advice to heart!
And not only are the winners interesting and totally unique — I’m not entirely sure what short film winners “Megatron” and “Jerrycan” are about, but cool titles! — but the presenters were even cooler.
Not only did two-time Oscar-winner Robert DeNiro hand out the award for the Palm d’Or to director Laurent Cantet (he’s the grey-haired dude in the pics with his “The Class” cast, above), but legendary expatriate — a previous Palm d’Or and Oscar-winner for “The Pianist” — director Roman Polanski presented the Grand Prix award to Italy’s Matteo Garrone for “Gomarra”. Cool!
And while I’m sure conspiracy theorists will have a field day with the fact that two of Monsieur Penn’s famous friends took home major awards — Benecio Del Toro for Best Actor in Steven Soderberg’s four hour-plus “Che” and Special Jury Award winner Clint Eastwood for his upcoming film “Changeling” — I like to think the jury did the right thing.
So, check out the complete list (and mad links!) of 2008’s Cannes winners below, and until next year’s shiny festival on the Riviera…vive le France!
CAMERA D’OR SPECIAL MENTION
“Everybody Dies But Me” by Valeria Gaï Guermanika