'4 Months' clocks win at Cannes

Romanian films come to fore as 60th festival wraps

After 12 days, 22 Competition films and 60 years of the Festival de Cannes, Stephen Frears' jury reached its verdict Sunday, bestowing the Palme d'Or on Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days."

The honor proved that all roads lead to Romanian cinema at this year's edition after Cristian Nemescu's "California Dreamin' " won the Un Certain Regard prize the day before.

Wild Bunch is handling international sales on "4 Months" and already has sold the film to IFC Films in the U.S., Artificial Eye in the U.K. and Italy's Lucky Red.

The second-place Grand Prix went to Japanese underdog "The Mourning Forest" (Mogari No Mori), directed by Naomi Kawase, about an old man and a caretaker at his retirement home struggling to overcome the deaths of their loved ones.

Julian Schnabel was named best director for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," which will be released by Miramax Films in the U.S., while Turkey's German-born Fatih Akin won the best screenplay award for "The Edge of Heaven."

Jeon Do-yeon's portrayal of a mother dealing with tragedy earned her the best actress prize for Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine," and Konstantin Lavronenko took home the best actor award for his role in Andrei Zviaguintsev's Russian entry "The Banishment."

The jury prize was split between Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's "Persepolis," a black-and-white animated adaptation of Satrapi's comic book about growing up during the Iranian Revolution, and "Silent Light" (Stellet Licht), Carlos Reygadas' tale of forbidden love among Mennonite farmers.

The jury gave its 60th Anniversary Prize to Gus Van Sant for his skater drama "Paranoid Park," "for his career and because he made a lovely film," Frears said.

The Camera d'Or, given to the best first film in the selection, was awarded to Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen for their Israeli film "Jellyfish" (Meduzot), presented in the Critics Week sidebar. Special mention went to Anton Corbijn's "Control," the Directors' Fortnight winner.

"I haven't felt anything like this since my Bar Mitzvah," Keret said while accepting the award.

"4 Months," Mungiu's second feature after 2002's "Occident," is the director's first official selection in Cannes. The film centers on a young woman seeking an illegal abortion during the final days of communism in Romania.

"It looks a little like a fairy tale," Mungiu said in receiving his prize. "One year ago, we didn't have an idea for this project. Six months ago, we didn't have the money to make it. You don't necessarily need a big budget or a lot of stars to make stories."

Said Satrapi, whose "Persepolis" will be released stateside by Sony Pictures Classics with the voices of Catherine De-neuve and Gena Rowlands: "Even though the story is universal, I share this prize with all Iranians."

Schnabel took to the stage in dark shades to accept his best director award, telling the crowd, "I thought I was making a movie about a paralyzed guy, then I realized I was making a movie about women."

Akin accepted his award by thanking his crew members, from the cameramen to the lead actors, then added: "I have a message for Turkey: All is one — united we stand, divided we fall."

Before presenting the prize for best actress, Alain Delon requested 25 seconds of applause for Romy Schneider, who died 25 years ago to the day.

"I'm told by you people who come here every year that this has been a terrific festival. On behalf of the jury, the films have been a pleasure to watch," Frears said.

The awards were handed out at a gala ceremony presided over by mistress of ceremonies Diane Kruger ahead of a screening of the Out of Competition film "Days of Darkness," directed by Canadian Denys Arcand. Guests then headed to a closing-night dinner and soiree at La Roseraie to wrap the 60th anniversary celebration of the festival with a night of dancing.