Iceland's 'Jar' tops Czech fest


KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur's gritty thriller "Jar City" won the $20,000 crystal globe grand prix Saturday at the closing of the 42nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Accepting his award from Danny DeVito on stage at the festival's Thermal Hotel headquarters, Kormakur held aloft the award -- a nude muse with a crystal globe -- and said: "We make only about five films a year and three are here at this festival. Now we've got this."

DeVito had earlier accepted a lifetime achievement award from festival president Jiri Bartoska.

DeVito -- who starred in the festival's closing film, Jake Paltrow's "The Good Night"-- joked that he would have to "go home with a woman holding my ball."

Best director went to Norway's Bard Breien for his wickedly funny take on disability, "The Art of Negative Thinking."

Dressed in a bright red suit and zebra-striped shoes, Breien said: "Scandinavians are often asked why we are obsessed with making films about deeply depressed alcoholic lonely people, but now I can see to have success in Eastern Europe you here are just as depressed!"

Best actor went to Sergey Puskepalis for his debut performance in Russian director Alexey Popogrebsky's "Simple Things."

Popogrebsky, who accepted the award on his behalf, remarked that Puskepalis was actually a theater director who had not acted before.

"Simple Things" also took anex-aequo (according to what is right and good) special mention for elderly Russian actor Leonid Bronevoy, whose performance was his first in film since the 1980s, and FIPRESCI and ecumenical jury nods.

Best actress was Elvira Minquez for her role in the Spanish film "Pudor" (directed by David and Tristan Ulloa).

In the festival's East of the West competition section, dedicated to films from former Communist countries, the $10,000 top prize went to "Armin," a Croatian, German, Bosnian and Herzegovinian co-production directed by Ognjen Svilicic. Estonian director Imar Raag's "The Class" got a special mention.

Best documentary shorter than 30 minutes was "Artel" by Russian director Sergey Loznitsa; longer than 30 minutes was "Last Holiday" by Czech helmer Lucie Kralova.

In other awards, the audience prize went to Czech director Jan Sverak's "Empties." Sverak's father Zdenek Sverak wrote the script and starred in the movie -- which has been a big boxoffice hit in the Czech Republic -- and he also took an ex-aequo nod.

Australian director Michael James Rowland got a special grand jury prize for the Australian feature film "Lucky Miles."

Saturday's largely Czech audience included a regular visitor, former Czech Republic president and Communist era dissident Vaclav Havel; the country's prime minister Mirek Topolanek; and Catholic Cardinal Vlk.

The awards ceremony wrapped up a nine-day festival run that began June 29. Cold, rainy weather failed to mar the spirits of the more than 11,000 accredited visitors who flocked to the 327 movies that screened.

The festival also was host to 234 directors, actors and producers, 752 film professionals and 574 journalists.

In addition to DeVito, star guests this year included actresses Rene Zellweger, Cybill Shepherd, and directors Monte Hellman and Tom DiCillo (whose "Delirious" opened the festival).

Away from the red carpet of the main competition programs, a sidebar on the "New Hollywood" films of the 1970s included Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets," Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation," Steven Spielberg's "The Sugarland Express" and Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude."

Bud Cort, who played Harold in Ashby's now classic 1971 movie about a somber young man and a free-spirited 79-year-old woman (played by Ruth Gordon), received a standing ovation from a capacity crowd of nearly 2,000 viewers when the film played.

Cort said he had never known such an enthusiastic and moving reaction to a movie condemned at the time by both right-wing conservatives and rebellious youths for its risque story of inter-generational love and human freedom.