Cannes comes to a close with a Palme d’Or for Winter Sleep

Timothy Spall and Julianne Moore among award winners from the Cannes Jury

British actor Timothy Spall poses during the Award Winners photocall after he won the Best Performance by an Actor award for his role in the movie ‘Mr Turner’ at the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes,

British actor Timothy Spall poses during the Award Winners photocall after he won the Best Performance by an Actor award for his role in the movie ‘Mr Turner’ at the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes,


There were surprises galore when the Cannes Jury, headed by Australian director Jane Campion, unveiled the prizes for the 2014 festival, but, in the end, the Palme d’Or, the event’s award for best film, went to the ante-post favourite: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep. Clocking in at three and a quarter hours, the Turkish picture concerns a former actor forced to examine his life while running a rustic hotel in Anatolia. Mr Ceylan, now 55, has been working his way towards the big prize for some years. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia won the Jury prize three years ago and Three Monkeys took the best director prize in 2008. “I dedicate this award to young people of Turkey who lost their lives last year and the dead miners in Soma,” Mr Ceylan said after receiving the Palme from Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman.

The standard at this year’s festival, though respectable, was not up to the heights of 2013 and any one of five or six films could have won. But most pundits had Winter Sleep marginally ahead before it even screened last Friday afternoon. Such is the strength of the Turkish film-maker’s reputation.

Elsewhere, all sorts of chaos ruled. To the surprise of many, Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders, a rural drama from Italy that received mixed reviews, took the Grand Prix, essentially the second prize, ahead of fancied pictures such as Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner and the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night. Marion Cotillard was hot favourite in the best actress race for that last film, but Campion’s Jury gave the prize to Julianne Moore for her turn as a solipsistic, venal movie star in David Cronenberg’s Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars.

There was less astonishment when the best actor went to veteran Timothy Spall for his performance as painter J M W Turner in Leigh’s film. “I’ve spent a lot of time being a bridesmaid. This is the first time I’ve ever been a bride,” the Londoner quipped in a somewhat rambling acceptance speech.

US film-maker Bennett Miller, best known for Capote and Moneyball, won best director for Foxcatcher, in which Steve Carell gives a career-upending turn as convicted killer John Du Pont. Best screenplay went to Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin for their work on Zvyagintsev’s ambitious Russian drama Leviathan.

The most delightful news of the night was, perhaps, the decision to share the Jury Prize, the “bronze medal”, between Xavier Dolan’s superbly moving Mommy and Jean-Luc Godard’s thrillingly experimental Goodbye to Language. Fifty-eight years separate the Québécois prodigy and the French pioneer of the Nouvelle Vague. Mommy, projected in a bizarre portrait ratio that mirrors the image on a smart phone, concerns a Montreal mom coping with a beloved, though troublesome, son with severe ADHD. Dolan, just 25, took the opportunity to acknowledge the influence of Campion’s The Piano on his work. More than a few observers felt that, following criticism of the conservative line-up for this year’s competition, the Jury should have taken the plunge and given the rising star the big prize.

Monsieur Godard’s piece was as bizarre, confusing and non-linear as much of his recent work, but featured the most innovative use of 3D – at one stage entirely different images are revealed in either eye – since that medium came back into vogue a decade ago. To nobody’s great surprise, the 83-year-old did not turn up to accept the prize in person.

The ceremony was held a day earlier this year to avoid clashing with counts in the European election. The prize for Un Certain Regard, chief sidebar, had already been handed to Kornel Mundruczo for his Hungarian satire White God, in which misused dogs take over Budapest.

The Mediterranean resort can, now, return to its exclusive obscurity for the next 50 weeks.