Roman Polanski takes the coveted Palme d'Or award


FRANCE/CANNES FILM FESTIVAL: In what is more likely to be interpreted as a life achievement award rather than a prize specifically for his new film, the 68-year-old French-Polish director Roman Polanski took the coveted principal prize, the Palme d'Or at the closing ceremony of the 55th Cannes Film Festival last night.

His new film, The Pianist is based on the experiences of the Polish pianist, Wladyslaw Spilman, who survived the Warsaw ghetto during the second World War and live to 88, before dying in the summer of 2000.

Receiving the award at Cannes last night, Polanski commented: "I am honoured and moved to receive this prestigious prize for a film which represents Poland."

The film was very much a personal project for Polanski, who was born in France to Jewish parents but later returned to Poland, where his mother died in a concentration camp. While the film was received with respectful applause when it was shown to the press in Cannes on Friday morning, before its world premiere at the festival, many, including this critic, found it sincere and worthy but essentially conventional and pedestrian.

The runner-up prize, Le Grand Prix du Jury, went to the festival's critical favourite, the Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's melancholy, witty and supremely stylish The Man Without a Past, which also received the best actress award for Kati Outinen as a Salvation Army officer who falls in love with a man who has lost his memory.

The best actor award - which has been firmly expected to go to Jack Nicholson at the peak of his powers in About Schmidt - went instead to a dour but committed performance from the Belgian actor, Olivier Gourmet, as a carpenter forced into an exceptionally difficult relationship with the boy who murdered his son in Le Fils (The Son), directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.