'Foxcatcher' does fine at Cannes

Bennett Miller was named best director for "Foxcatcher." Getty Images
Bennett Miller was named best director for "Foxcatcher." Getty Images
Posted: May 27, 2014

CANNES, France - Bennett Miller almost made it to the top of the 67th Cannes Film Festival ladder with his fourth film Saturday night when he was named best director for Foxcatcher, about the 1996 Newtown Square murder of Olympic champion wrestler Dave Schultz by John du Pont, major domo of U.S. amateur wrestling and a du Pont family heir.

But the Palme d'Or, the competition's top honor, went to its longest entry, the 3-hour, 16-minute Winter Sleep, by Nuri Bilge Ceylan of Turkey. Set in a remote part of Anatolia, it portrays a cosmopolitan author, actor, and landowner who condescends to his quarrelsome sister, his miserable young wife, and the poor tenants who despise him, in what is clearly a commentary on the hubris of Turkey's liberal intelligentsia for listening to no one but themselves.

"My starting point always, though, is the darkness, and to search the dark side of my soul," Ceylan responded to a reporter's question about the film's politics. Known for lengthy, pulse-taking movies that have won grand jury runner-up prizes at Cannes in the past, he dedicated his Palme to young Turks who have died in political protests in the past year.

Jane Campion, who won the Palme d'Or in 1992 for The Piano, presided over a nine-member jury that included directors Nicolas Winding Refn and Sofia Coppola and actors Carole Bouquet, Gael Garcia Bernal, Willem Dafoe, and Iranian Leila Hatami. (Hatami was criticized in her home country for exchanging classic French kiss-kisses with 83-year-old Gilles Jacob, who is retiring as president of the festival after 35 years.)

For Foxcatcher's Miller, who also directed Capote and Moneyball, the journey to Cannes - from finding the story to finishing the film only two weeks before the festival started - took eight years.

Foxcatcher played early in the festival, as did many of the winners, and like them it was on most critics' short lists to win something, if not the Palme. Miller said that when he got the call that he had won an award, "I was in Paris. I was having breakfast with an ex-girlfriend. And she was right in the middle of a very intense story, and I went, 'Can I call you right back?' " to the festival representative.

He dedicated the prize to producer Megan Ellison and the film's stars, Mark Ruffalo, who plays Schultz, Channing Tatum as his brother Mark, and Steve Carell as du Pont.

Miller said he cast Carell in the role because - like du Pont - "you don't expect him to kill anyone." Foxcatcher has been set by Sony Pictures Classics for a November release in the United States, as part of a run at the Oscars.

Leviathan, a Russian film by director Andrey Zvyagintsev, is a bighearted, raging version of the Job story set in Russia, and was pegged by many as a likely Palme d'Or winner for railing against small-town corruption in Putin's oil-state Russia (which provided some funding for the film). Instead, it won best screenplay for Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Timothy Spall, who stars in Mr. Turner, about the life of the 19th-century British painter J.M.W. Turner, won best actor for his seventh collaboration in 33 years with director Mike Leigh. Perhaps best known for playing Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter series, Spall is an Everyman character actor who gets a lead role once in a blue moon.

"I was up in North Holland with my arm up a greased pipe on my boat" when he received the call he had won, Spall said. "I did have a wash."

Julianne Moore was named best actress for her role as a crazed American actress in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, a takedown of Hollywood largely written off by the press here as a misfire. She did not appear; the film's screenwriter, Bruce Wagner, accepted for her.

The Grand Prix, runner-up to the Palme d'Or, went to the Italian coming-of-age film The Wonders by 33-year-old Alice Rohrwacher - one of two female directors in the festival's Palme lineup - that was part neorealism and part Federico Fellini.

The third-place Jury Prize was split by the oldest filmmaker in competition, 83-year-old New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, for his 3-D Goodbye to Language, and Quebec's Xavier Dolan, at 25 already a specialist in tortured-relationship films, for Mommy, about a single mother and her provocative teenage son.

Party Girl, a French film by Marie Amachoukeli about a 60-year-old nightclub hostess who is feeling her age, was named best first film.

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