The Cannes Report: ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ nabs Palme d’Or

It has been a dizzying 12-days of premieres, red carpets, soirees, yachts, paparazzi, and cinematic treats at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, which opened with a gala screening of The Great Gatsby. Although rain made a special guest appearance at the France Riviera for part of the festival, the mood was not dampened. Perhaps the weather was merely a clever ploy to encourage packed houses at film screening.

The festival handed its most prestigious award, the Palme d’Or to the coming-of-age, three-hour sensual lesbian romance, Blue is the Warmest Colour: The Life of Adele (French: La Vie d’Adèle), by Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche. The Steven Spielberg led jury presented the award not only to the film’s director, but also to its two fearless actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos.

The film premiered only a few days after France legalized gay marriage.  (The day of its premiere, protests against France’s new gay marriage law were held in Paris).

Although much has been said of the explicit sex scenes in Blue Is the Warmest Colour, it is certainly not the only film at Cannes to bring sexuality center stage. Not by a long shot.

Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake, an equally explicit film about gay male sex, won the Best Director prize at Un Certain Regard at the fest.

Francis Ozon’s Young & Beautiful tells the story of a teenage middle-class prostitute. James Gray’s The Immigrant tackles the subject of forced prostitution when a Polish woman, in search of the American dream, ends up on the mean streets of 1920′s Manhattan instead.

Blue is the Warmest Colour has gotten overwhelmingly rave reviews from critics and received a standing ovation when it won at Cannes. The film has been picked up for U.S. distribution during the festival by IFC’s Sundance Selects.

Spielberg’s jury also included Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz.

This marks the second year in a row that a French film had won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Last year’s winner, Michael Haneke’s Amour, had also gone on to win best foreign language film at the Oscars.

The Coen brothers didn’t walk away empty handed either. One of the festival’s most beloved films, Inside Llewyn Davis took the Grand Prix. The film chronicles the story of a singer/songwriter (Oscar Isaac) as he navigates New York’s Greenwich Village folk music scene in 1961. The film also stars Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan.

Bruce Dern nabbed a Best Actor award for his performance in Alexander Payne’s father-son road trip film, Nebraska, whileBerenice Bejo (already familiar to audience as Peppy Miller in Oscar-winning nearly-silent film, The Artist) won Best Actress for her portrayal of a single mother in Asghar Farhadi’s The Past.

The Japanese film Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi ni Naru) directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, received the Prix du Jury – the festival’s third top award.  The film explores familial bonds by following two families who discover that their 6-year-old sons were switched at birth.

Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante nabbed the Best Director award for his drug war drama Heli.

Zhangke Jia’s A Touch Of Sin, which depicts the violence wrought by China’s economic boom, was chosen for Best Screenplay.

First-time helmer, Singaporean director Anthony Chen won the Camera d’Or for Ilo Ilo, about the relationship between a Singaporean family and their maid, set amidst the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

In an odd twist, there were reports that $1 million worth of jewelry was stolen from a hotel room safe the same night as the premiere of Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, a film inspired by a string of robberies that targeted the houses of celebrities. Before the festival was over, even more thefts were reported. A publicity stunt or brazen opportunitists?

On a more positive note, the amfAR Cinema Against AIDS annual gala and auction at the festival raised a lot of funds for the charity. One of the “items” up for grabs was a seat next to Leonardo DiCaprio on Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space flight – it sold for approx $1.5 million US dollars. Not bad.

Want more on Cannes? Visit: http://www.festival-cannes.fr/en.html

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