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Surprise, surprise: firstly for Roman Polanski’s The Pianist being an unexpectedly conventional film, and second for it winning the Palme d’Or, reports Andrew L. Urban from Cannes. But the show was as glamorous - and brief - as expected.

Nobody was rude enough to boo – indeed, he got a standing ovation - when Roman Polanski walked on stage to accept his Palme d’Or from Juliette Binoche, but at the screening of his film, at least one festival director (here scouting for entries for his own event later this year) walked out, and critics were underwhelmed. But Polanski accepted the award with the gravitas befitting the film’s sombre subject – the true story of a famous and brilliant Polish pianist who survived the Nazis.

If critics’ polls predicted the result accurately, the major prize may have gone to Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention or perhaps Aki Kaurismaki’s The Man Without a Past. The former in fact won the Prix de Jury (presented by a perennial festival favourite, Andie MacDowell), the latter took the (confusingly named) Grand Prize. Kaurismaki made the shortest speech, simply thanking himself and the jury, in his eccentric fashion.

The first award of the night was a special commemorative note for this year’s 55th festival anniversary, handed out by Australia’s Naomi Watts in an ice blue dress. It was cleverly used to honour the first doco in competition for 25 years, Michael Moore’s well received Bowling for Columbine, a post-Columbine shooting essay on American society and violence.

Pedro Almodovar, noting the absence of Spanish cinema at the festival, presented the shared best director prize to Paul Thomas Anderson for Punch Drunk Love, and Im Kwon-taek for Chihwaseon.

The Best Screenplay award was handed to Paul Laverty for Sweet Sixteen, Ken Loach’s new (and acclaimed) film; Laverty also wins the longest acceptance speech award, half of it in very slow school-boy french.

In another surprise vote, the jury, headed by David Lynch, awarded Belgian comic actor Olivier Gourmet the Best Actor award for his performance in Le Fils by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. The award was presented by Kristin Scott Thomas. Jeremy Irons handed the Best Actress award to Kati Outinen, for The Man Without a Past. (Irons stars in the Closing Film, Claude Lelouch’s And Now…Ladies and Gentlemen.)

In his opening remarks, David Lynch said there “aren’t enough prizes to hand out but we are as a jury very pleased with the choices we have made.”

25th Anniversary Camera D’Or was won by Julie Lopes-Curval for Bord de Mer, and Carlas Reygadas’ Japon was awarded a Special Mention award. Hungary’s Peter Meszaros won the Palme d’Or for a short film, with his four minute, After the Rain.

With the exception of Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki who wore a defiantly open necked shirt, the men were in various forms of evening wear, ranging from the classic to the scalloped collared tie-less shirt with cream coloured suit worn by Jeremy Irons. But for the women, cleavage was the rule, deep and dangerous. Black was the colour of choice, led by the glamorous French actress Virginie Ledoyen who dazzled in a striking black sequined gown slit to the waist.

The Award ceremony followed the customary red carpet frolics on a perfect Cannes evening, as the setting sun danced above the shimmering blue Mediterranean of the Cote D’Azur. Jack Nicholson, Cameron Diaz and Leonardo diCaprio have left, Liz Taylor is in a villa up in the hills, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant are flying out first thing, after their entertaining double act at the Saturday press conference for Two Weeks Notice.

The 55th Cannes is already history, and the first of the 400-or so films to be considered for next year’s festival are being shipped to the festival HQ in Paris...

Published May 26, 2002

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55th Festival de Cannes
May 15 – 26, 2002

Roman Polanski

The Pianist

Punch Drunk Love

Sweet Sixteen

Jury President David Lynch


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