In Contention


We, the jury

Posted by Guy Lodge · 5:06 am · May 25th, 2009

(from left) Asia Argento, Isabelle Huppert and Nuri Bilge CeylanIt’s admittedly pretty low-rent, but one of the most enjoyable Cannes traditions is the annual gossip about what went down behind closed doors in the jury room — ranging from minor cultural disagreements to all-out bitter in-fighting. At yesterday’s press conference, juror Asia Argento insisted that their deliberations should remain a secret, but not everyone is so discreet: William Goldman, of course, dedicated half a book to covering his own experience as a juror at the 1988 fest, and most entertainingly too.

Last year’s Sean Penn-governed jury was reportedly one of the most placid in recent memory, agreeing unanimously on “The Class” for the Palme d’Or. This year’s panel, apparently … not so much.

Critic Shane Danielsen — who, as the former artistic director of the Edinburgh Film Festival, knows the ins and outs of such proceedings — has done some digging, to juicy effect. Writing in the comments section of the A.V. Club’s Cannes blog, he claims the jury was highly divided, with a notable rift between Isabelle Huppert and James Gray. Meanwhile, contrary to widespread assumption, it might not have been Michael Haneke that Huppert was pushing  hardest for, but Lars Von Trier:

Unusually troubled, apparently, with president Isabelle Huppert riding roughshod over everyone, and James Grey (sic) reportedly calling her a “fascist bitch” in their final meeting … Huppert reportedly remained ‘Antichrist’s biggest champion on a bitterly divided and fractious jury. Who, as they came onstage, looked either funereal (Lee Chang-Dong, Hanif Kureishi), grimly determined (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) or just plain pissed-off (James Gray).

Needless to say, the jury’s press conference is all civilized camaraderie, with Argento and Robin Wright Penn insisting on the communality and friendships formed in the process, while Gray extravagantly sings Huppert’s praises as a president and cites “no discord.” Whether you choose to believe that or read it as damage control is all part of the fun. (Variety, by the way, quotes an unnamed as juror as calling this his worst-ever jury experience.)

Hanif Kureishi, however, raised the biggest laughs of the conference with his dry take on the events, particularly when it came to the night’s least well-received winner, Brillante Mendoza’s “Kinatay”:

It’s quite odd watching two films a day, and quite intense … and some of the films are very, very long. And some of them are very, very weird as well, I have to say. But most of them were interesting, and we discussed them all very intensively. I have to say, I saw things I’ve never seen in my life before in some of these films, but in the end, on the whole, we came to the right decisions.

It (“Kinatay”) is not a dating film, this film. As I’m sure you know, it involves a very violent rape, and then a beheading and then a dismemberment. So I wouldn’t advise any of you to take your lover to see this movie, but sometimes good art is hard. It’s not something I want to see again, I have to say.

Now there’s British diplomacy for you. If you want to do further reading between the lines, check out the videos (complete with headache-inducing camerawork) from the press conference here.




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→ 11 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

11 responses so far

  • 1 5-25-2009 at 8:22 am

    Gustavo H.R. said...

    “Fascist bitch” is a somewhat strong remark, but if the Palme D’Or going to Haneke is a result of such rumorous mess, then things turned out just fine.

  • 2 5-25-2009 at 8:47 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Haha. It’s almost polite compared to some of the things Mike Leigh said about president Isabelle Adjani after they both served on the ’97 jury, if memory serves.

  • 3 5-25-2009 at 9:51 am

    Marshall1 said...

    What did Mike Leigh said? I find him such a lay back guy it’s hard to imagine him being nasty…..
    Very surprisingly that Huppert would push for Anti christ instead, but I think for someone who is so daring in the Piano Teacher, she will like Antichrist quite a bit, with a strong central female character

  • 4 5-25-2009 at 10:20 am

    MattyD. said...

    I met James Gray back in November and found him to be a very affable guy and I would love to hear which films he was pushing for. It doesn’t surprise me that he would butt heads with Huppert..

  • 5 5-25-2009 at 10:33 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Marshall: Can’t remember exactly, but he’s been quite vocal about the fact that he thinks Adjani’s a complete dimwit. He brings it up in interviews now and then.

    Also, I’ve witnessed Leigh’s film-school critiques of student work first-hand. He can have a very sharp tongue indeed ;)

  • 6 5-25-2009 at 12:32 pm

    Mike said...

    Funny, I imagined Huppert and Argento as Antichrist’s biggest supporters.
    But, I’d like to know how big are jury president’s powers?

    Oh, and keep the jury gossip coming lol.

  • 7 5-26-2009 at 2:27 am

    marco70go said...

    On paper, jury president’s powers are quite limited, with his/her vote counting as two in case of split decisions. Then again, it depends a lot on his/her ability to guide the whole jury towards his/her way of thinking. the verdict of 1999 Cannes jury has David Cronenberg’s name written all over it: totally ignoring David Lynch’s The Straight Story, bestowing a “consolation prize” (best director) to Pedro Almodóvar’s “All About My Mother” and handing out a surprise Palme d’Or and Best Actress trophy to Dardenne Brothers’ “Rosetta” as well as THREE prizes (Grand Prize, Best Actor and Best Actress) to Bruno Dumont’s highly controversial and critically panned “L’humanité”.

  • 8 5-27-2009 at 2:30 am

    jess said...

    Adjani a dimwit ?
    Huppert a fascist bitch ?

    What’s next, Winslet a closeted self-obsessed, award-hungry diva ?

  • 9 5-27-2009 at 2:04 pm

    anne thompson said...

    Here’s the relevant jury graph from my cannes winners and losers entry (http://weblogs.variety.com/thompsononhollywood/2009/05/cannes-winners-and-losers-.html):
    Word from the Cannes jury is that the votes were often split along director vs. actor lines. This makes sense, as actors, writers and directors think very differently. As the group, led by French actress Isabelle Huppert, talked over the selections (in English) three times during the fest–they saw 20 films– they eliminated certain films that didn’t raise enough votes, like Bright Star and Broken Embraces. Inglourious Basterds and Antichrist were more admired by the actors than the directors, while Fish Tank and Thirst were directors’ pictures–and split the jury prize. The votes on the top two films, The White Ribbon and A Prophet were very close. But no award was unanimous. The most contentious debate was over best director Brilliante Mendoza, for Kinatay. The jurors weren’t allowed to talk to anyone, and during deliberations, they even gave up their cell phones.

  • 10 5-27-2009 at 2:20 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Thanks, Anne — fascinating stuff.