Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Day 12 (conclusion): Back to Reality

by Henri Béhar

CANNES, May 18th -- "And now the end is near/And soon we'll face/The final curtain..." Since this morning, the jury has been locked up at the Villa Domergue for their final deliberation and will only emerge at the end of the day to go straight to the Palais and proclaim the results.

Since Clint Eastwood's "Absolute Power" has already come out in the States and starts its European career in a couple of days, quite a few people have chosen to leave one day earlier rather than find themselves stuck in the rush of the long holiday weekend. We spend the day sorting out papers, putting catalogs, publications and press kits in boxes, folding clothes in a suitcase we don't really want to pack. One settles a few bar bills (Majestic, Carlton), one goes to lunch on the beach (Long Beach), one starts betting on the awards. The range of possibilities seems wider than usual.

The ceremony. Red carpeted stairs. Awards. The TV show. Not exactly a masterpiece. The set is a tad hideous - it's the same as for opening night, with a trompe-l'oeil backdrop and yards of material on the floor agitated by wind machines to evoke waves. ("Fellini did a far better job on 'Casanova'", said one of the attending journalists.) With the jury lined up on the side like potted plants and the two other female jurors, actresses Gong Li and Mira Sorvinio, parked at the far end of the second row, the entire show belonged to Jeanne Moreau, the emcee, and Isabelle Adjani, president of the jury. ("Was there really that much fighting?" the audience wonders.)

The awards. One of the possible configurations. Golden Palm: Abbas Kiarostami's "The Taste of Cherry" and Shohei Imamura's "The Eel." Best Actor: Sean Penn. Best Actress: not Robin Wright Penn, which many gave as a shoe-in, but Kathy Burke for Gary Oldman's "Nil by Mouth." Best Director: Wong Kar-Wai. Grand Jury Prize: Atom Egoyan for "The Sweet Hereafter." You could reshuffle the cards between Golden Palm, Grand Jury Prize and Best Director, no one would be shocked. One award is unanimously well-received: The 50th Anniversary Prize given to Youssef Chahine for "Destiny".

"When one stands behind the microphone, one is supposed to say intelligent things," said the Egyptian filmmaker as he collected his award. "My heart is beating too fast. I have butterflies in my stomach, and I've been waiting for this moment for 47 years. I have one advice for young filmmakers: be patient, it's really worth it."

The purpose of the closing night dinner is generally to tell the winners that you love them and that they really deserved their awards, and to those who didn't win, that you love them no matter what. The purpose is also to exchange addresses, phone numbers, e-mails. "As soon as you're in Paris (London, New York, Shanghai), give me a call, let's have a drink." It's also to try and get some info from the jurors who, of course, will try to slither away with such lines as, "I can't anything, you know that." Pause. "But you know what? As soon as we walked into the deliberation room..." And because you really don't want to part, you all gather for one last drink at the Majestic bar, and you all have the splendidly tired face of Maurice Ronet in "The Fire Within."

Then morning comes, and shuttle to the helicopter, chop to the airport, flight to Paris. It's raining. Back to reality.

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