Hollywood Flashback: Almodóvar Charmed Audiences With 'Mother' in 1999

AP PHOTO/RHONDA GALBRAITH
Stars Penélope Cruz (left) and Cecilia Roth flanked Pedro Almodóvar at Cannes.

When 'All About My Mother' came to Cannes in 1999, the audience was stunned after the film failed to win the Palme d'Or.

The Hollywood Reporter was a major fan of All About My Mother when it came to Cannes in 1999. In its review, THR said, "Pedro Almodóvar has created his finest and most absorbing work to date" and predicted the Spanish film would be a "strong contender for top awards in the main competition." However, the David Cronenberg-led jury gave the Palme d’Or to the French-Belgian film Rosetta, which THR seemed to stoically accept. But when it came to the grand prize going to Bruno Dumont’s L’humanité, the magazine said the choice "stunned the audience, drawing the sort of whistles and groans more often found at bad opera performances."

Almodóvar was given the best director award, which he accepted to a standing ovation that THR said indicated the crowd believed he "should have won the Palme d’Or." Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which released Mother, says: "Being popular is not a factor of what wins in Cannes. It’s all up to the jury; they make the call."

The awards ended a festival THR had mixed feelings about. Before it began, THR had described the 52nd outing as the "year when Hollywood will be absent in force" due to the lack of big studio movies. Only seven of the 22 films in competition (and 1,138 were screened for possible inclusion) were in English. There was a tribute to Stanley Kubrick, who’d died two months before, but no excerpts from his then-unreleased Eyes Wide Shut were made available. Festival director Gilles Jacob had wanted Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace to have its premiere, but Fox declined the offer.

"My interpretation is that the producers did not want an ‘artistic’ label attached to a film that is supposed to be popular entertainment,” Jacob told THR. As for Almodóvar, his latest, Pain and Glory, which like Mother stars Penélope Cruz, screens in competition May 17 at the fest.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's May 17 daily issue at the Cannes Film Festival.