As the smoke cleared in Paris, following the violence of the anti-gay marriage protests that marred this weekend, at Cannes, stars of the landmark lesbian romance – ‘La Vie d’Adele’ – celebrated winning the lauded Palme d’Or.
While Steven Spielberg, this year’s jury president, denied that political sensitivities had played a part in the deliberations, for many, news of the film’s victory came with a sense that it somehow validated what has been a painful, and often vicious, fight for equality.
For Léa Seydoux, one of the film’s two leading ladies, the reception has made the journey worth it: “The filming was very long, lasting almost five and a half months. We shot so much, and a lot of footage didn’t make the final cut. When we actually saw the film, it wasn’t what we expected. Still, to have such a good reaction from the press, and the public, has helped us fall in love with it.”
Elsewhere, Asghar Farhadi’s divorce drama ‘The Past’ made do with a Best Actress gong for Bérénice Bejo; an honour that sees her catapulted into the front rank of French actors, following as it does on the back of her role in the Oscar-winning silent film, ‘The Artist’. Post-Cannes triumph, however, she was just happy to have had the chance to work with Farhadi and to be part of such a thrilling production: “This is a magnificent, strong film, and what I like the most is the sense of creeping suspense. The drama slowly develops and we only learn things very gradually. And this suspense is an important part why the film works so well. “
In the male category, veteran Bruce Dern was so confident Michael Douglas’ Liberace would win the Best Actor award, he flew back early and was not even there to take the applause for his performance as an alcoholic father in Alexander Payne’s monochrome road movie, ‘Nebraska’.
The single greatest surprise of the evening, however, saw the award for Best Director go to Amat Escalante, who was just as excited to receive the award from Steven Spielberg, as he was to get the prize itself: “I have always been inspired by Steven Spielberg movies when I was growing up. I think it was Spielberg who saw in me the seeds of film-making.”
Escalante’s ‘Heli’ – a powerful narco-drama set in a dusty Mexican town – had unnerved many with scenes of violent torture, including those involving a flambéed penis and a strangled puppy.
Best Screenplay went to Jia Zhangke’s ultra-violent attack on Chinese consumerism, ‘A Touch of Sin’. For the director, it was a production which was about breaking boundaries as much as anything else: “I think the most important thing for the artists, or film-makers, is that they shouldn’t have a self-censorship. They should be brave enough to be creative and use their artwork, or their film, to push the limits, and the censorship.”
The ‘Jury’ prize went to Hirokazu Koreeda’s gentle domestic drama ‘Like Father, Like Son’ whilst Clio Barnard was the sole British winner. Her second film, ‘The Selfish Giant’ won the Critics’ Week sidebar.