'Dead' rises at Deauville Film Fest


DEAUVILLE, France -- Andre Techine and his jury breathed life into Karen Moncrieff's "The Dead Girl," awarding it the 33rd Deauville American Film Festival's grand prize as the 10-day celebration of trans-Atlantic cinema wrapped Sunday night.

The discovery of the mysterious dead girl shatters the lives of complete strangers tied together by her brutal murder in this picture. The film was written and directed by Moncrieff and produced by First Look Studios and Lakeshore Entertainment. It features Toni Collette, Rose Byrne, Brittany Murphy, Mary Beth Hurt, Nick Searcy, Marcia Gay Harden, Kerry Washington, Giovanni Ribisi, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Piper Laurie and Mary Steenburgen.

The movie has yet to set a release date in France, but will be distributed in the territory by Sonatine Films.

"The fact that you, with your culture and your film culture, are here honoring American movies is really astounding to me," Moncrieff said in her acceptance of the honor. Techine's jury awarded the runner-up Jury Prize to "Never Forever," Gina Kim's moving portrait of a woman who embarks on a series of sexual encounters with a Korean immigrant worker as she struggles to save her marriage.

French actor and director Gael Morel and his jury bestowed the Cartier Revelation Award for emerging talent on "Rocket Science," directed by Jeffrey Blitz, who took the best director prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival for the movie about a stuttering boy who joins his high school debate team. The international critics prize went to James C. Strouse's "Grace Is Gone," which stars John Cusack as a father unable to tell his daughters that their mother has died in Iraq.

Canal Plus awarded its prize for best documentary to "The War," Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's 14-hour, 50-minute World War II docu. Deauville's 11-film competition lineup featured a series of crowd pleasers such as Bill Guttentag's dark reality TV dramedy "Live!," Robert Cary's neurotic New York romantic comedy "Ira and Abby" and Mitchell Lichtenstein's introduction to gynecological dentistry "Teeth."

The 10-day star-powered foray through the delightful Normandy Coast brought together Hollywood hunks George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and featured tributes to American film legends Michael Douglas, Sidney Lumet and Ida Lupino.

On Saturday, visitors to the coastal resort town were treated to a dose of humor a la the Farrelly brothers as Paramount screened the world premiere of "The Heartbreak Kid." The guests joined directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly and leading ladies Michelle Monaghan and Malin Akerman for a night of Mexican music, dancing and cuisine at the famed Lucien Barriere Casino.

Other world premieres at the fest included Affleck's directorial debut "Gone, Baby, Gone" on Wednesday and Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," both of which received a generally positive response from critics and the public. American author Jay McInerney joined festival guests to celebrate "The Good Life" appropriately with a lavish dinner at the Hotel Royal followed by a night of champagne and dancing at the festival's glam Villa Cartier.

Gena Rowlands received a standing ovation when she surprised guests at the closing ceremonies Sunday. The actress was in town for daughter Zoe Cassavetes' "Broken English" about an unexpected love affair between an American woman and a French man. France's own love affair with America finished strong as cinephiles finally went to sleep after 10 days of 24-hour screenings of U.S. classics, part of this year's new "American Nights" section.