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Palme d'Or to 'Winter Sleep'; Jury Prize shared by Xavier Dolan and JL Godard

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2014 Festival de Cannes

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The 2014 Palme d'Or went to "Winter Sleep" by Nuri Bilge Ceylan on May 24, a decision long anticipated by trade jury grids during the 11 day festival (May 15-25) . The winning film from Turkey outmaneuvered many of the critics' favorites of the week. The presenters of the award, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman, were in Cannes for the "Cinema de La Plage" (cinema on the beach) screening of "Pulp Fiction". Tarantino introduced the festival closing film, Sergio Leone's cult classic western starring Clint Eastwood - "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964).

On the Red Carpet before the closing ceremony, Tarantino clowned around pulling an imaginary pistol on photographers and dancing with Thurman. "Pulp Fiction" was a milestone in film history, but the night belonged to Ceylan whose film is a 210 minute morality tale about a former actor who runs a hotel in remote Anatolia. As winter approaches, he is alone with his young wife and her sister going through a divorce. The cold weather makes the hotel not only a shelter but a site where the three must confront their growing feelings of animosity.

Xavier Dolan seemed likely to become the youngest Palme d'Or recipient at age 25, and had he won with his latest film "Mommy", he would have beat Steven Soderbergh's record for being the youngest recipient. At age 26 Soderberg won the Palme d'Or for "Sex, Lies and Videotapes"(1989). His candid portrait changed the way that films were made by demonstrating that you could make a film with a low budget and realistic dialogue of high quality. Now, the same is being said about "Mommy" and its innovative film language. Ironically, many critics seem to feel it was Dolan's age that kept the prize from him. Talk at Cannes among critics this evening is that he should have won the top prize. Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a veteran who has received other runner up prizes just as Dolan, now receiving his first.The idea is that when we are young, we will have many more opportunities to win. Probably the universal appeal of "Winter Storm" with many philosophical comments about life spoke to the jury headed by Jane Campion, and Dolan saluted her: "You have written magnificent roles for women, with a soul, neither victims nor objects", and he hopes in turn to create open female characters.

"Mommy", like the films of Jean Luc Godard, has broken ground, and ironically Dolan shared the jury prize with the French New Wave director with the daring hand held camera and jump cuts. Godard's film "Adieu au Langage" (Goodbye to Language) in the official competition uses colorized scenes and fragmentation in a rather well shaped non-linear narrative. Godard seems to be keeping up with innovation, and recently announced that he was working on colorizing "Breathless" (1960), his first feature made when he was 30, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

Dolan's "Mommy" represents a paradigm shift for cinematic language. Defying established aspect ratios, Dolan and his DOP (director of photography) André Turpin used a perfectly square 1.1 instead of today's widescreen formats. "Mommy" shot on 35mm explores futuristic Canada with new mental-health laws in this film about a mother with a violent son. Dolan has this to say about the use of his aspect ratio:

After having shot a music video in 1:1 last year, it dawned on me that this ratio translated in a somewhat unique emotion and sincerity. The perfect square in which it consists framed faces with such simplicity, and seemed like the ideal structure for “portrait” shots. No distraction, no affectations are possible in such constricted space. The character is our main subject, inescapably at the center of our attention. Our eyes cannot miss him, her. 1:1 is, besides, the ratio of album covers in the CD industry, and of all of these jackets that have imprinted our imaginaries over time. The Die & Steve Mix 4ever being a leitmotif for us, the use of 1:1 found an additional echo. It is also, to be frank, my DOP André Turpin’s favorite ratio which he had, apparently, dreamed of using his entire life without ever daring to do so (he’s also a director, and directed the extremely enjoyable Zigrail, Middle-East road trip shot in black and white and featuring some brutal early John Zorn!). After having now spent a year with him busting my balls at about just every shot, regretting our infamous ratio, I’ve learned two things: André loves cinemascope and I, for one, have absolutely no regrets in this".

If there is any consolation for not taking home the top prize this year, Xavier Dolan should be proud that he shares an award with the highly regarded Jean Luc Godard. That should mean a lot to him, a young filmmaker who has already a few features under his belt at only 25 shown at Cannes and Venice.

Dolan told the Cannes public that he accepted the jury prize for his generation.

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