Sunday, February 26, 2006

"The Beat my Heart Skipped" picks up 8 French awards

France's annual cinema awards went overboard in recognising Jacques Audiard's "De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté/The Beat my Heart Skipped" (co-written with Tonino Benacquista and loosely based on James Toback's 1978 "Fingers") on Saturday night, offering it no less than 8 of the coveted César awards including best film and best director. "This is becoming embarassing," he said after picking up his last award. The tale of a crooked real estate agent and his dream of becoming a concert pianist has been a hit amongst art-house audiences since its release. Yet despite being a strong favourite, its lead actor Romain Duris missed the Best Actor award, which went to veteran Michel Bouquet for his standout role as President Mitterand in "Le promeneur du Champ de Mars/The Stroller in the Champ de Mars".

The César awards often skirt controversy in their choices. Amongst the films picking up awards was the harrowing documentary "Darwin's Nightmare" (Best First Film for Hubert Sauper).

Best Original Screeplay went to Radu Mihaileanu and Alain-Michel Blanc for the highly rated "Va, vis et deviens", the moving tale of an Ethopian boy fighting his way back to life.

Best foreign film was Client Eastwood's "Million Dollar Bay" ("Brokeback Mountain" was not released in time to qualify). British actor Hugh Grant picked up an award for his body of work. "I don't win a lot of prizes," he said, "especially at home. Thank you France".

For an interview (in English) about Audiard's remake of "Fingers", see Movie City News.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Berlinale salutes politics (largely)

The Berlinale closed this weekend, with the international jury rewarding a very diverse selection of films and giving the most high-profile awards to two hard-hitting films. The coveted Golden Bear went to Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic for "Grbavica", which also picked up the prize from the ecumenical jury. In a touching speech quoted by Screen International, she said: "Thank you for being so liberal for inviting a small film from such a small country and a small budget. Although the war in Bosnia ended some 13 years ago, war criminals Karadzic and Mladic still live in Europe freely. They have not been captured for organising [the] rape of women in Bosnia, killing 100,000 people and expelling 1 million people from their houses. This is still Europe and no-one is interested in capturing them. I hope this [film] will change your view of Bosnia and this Bear will not be disappointed when he sees Bosnia."

The other major award went to Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross's "The Road To Guantanamo", shown days before the UN report on the camp. The people portrayed in the film were present at the screening.

Other prizes include a split Grand Jury Award for Pernille Fischer Christensen's "En Soap/A Soap" and Jafar Panahi's "Offside",

Click here for the full list of Berlinale winners.

UPDATE FEB 22: Since winning at Berlin, the mother-and-daughter tale "Grbavica" has been picked up for Austria (where it will premiere at the Women's Film days FrauenFilmTage on March 2) and Germany.

BAFTA salutes Hollywood (largely)

Given the list of nominees, it hardly comes as a surprise. This weekend's Bafta awards overwhelmingly favoured US and UK releases, despite the fact that European cinema is in one of its strong periods. The short overview is that Best Film went to "Brokeback Mountain", Best British Film went to "Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and Best Original Screenplay went to Paul Haggis/Bobby Moresco for "Crash". Best Film not in the English Language went to Audiard's "The Beat That my Heart Skipped", the only non-English feature. See the full list of Bafta winners here.

I thought maybe this ultra-Anglophone selection reflected a policy on the part of the jury. But having sat on juries, I know they can only choose from what they are offered. So I had a look at the films that were actually entered. See the list here. I'm not sure what to make of it. Does this mean that most French and German (or indeed Asian) producers are not interested in the Baftas, which would surprise me. One of the conditions for entrance is a UK theatrical release. It is even specified that "Films from all countries are eligible in all categories, with the exception of The Alexander Korda Award, The Carl Foreman Award and the Short Film Award." So are so few French and German films released in the UK?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Fauteuil d'orchestre" interview

Although there is a general feeling that the current French comedies are in fact too French and have a hard time exporting, nothing seems to stop them. "Les bronzés 3" is currently setting box office records in France and Belgium, despite so-so reviews. The latest comedy to be released is "Fauteuil d'orchestre", the story of a country girl (Cecile de France playing it down) who gets a job in a Paris café to be close to the glamour of the theatre world. Directed by Danièle Thompson ("La Boum", "Décalage horaire/Jet Lag") and co-written with actor Christopher Thompson, it opens in France this week (with a première and presentation by the director in Belgium on February 21 at the Flagey centre).

See an interview with the writers (in French) here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Michael Hoffmann's "Eden" picks up Rotterdam awards

Germany's writer/director Michael Hoffmann (photo, centre) came back from the Rotterdam International Film festival a happy man. His "Eden", a tale of unrequited love and a crime of passion based on "erotic cooking", picked up the Tiscali Audience Award and the Rotterdam Lion's Club award. Produced by Gambit and C-Film, "Eden" is Hoffmann's third feature after "The Beaches of Trouville" and "Sophiiie!".

The icing on the cake is that a Dutch distributor will be releasing "Eden" in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in addition to its German release. For more details, see the interview on the Rotterdam site (in English).