Politics were in the air from the beginning of the Cannesfestival and it closed on a distinctly political note with the Palme d'Orawarded to Michael Moore's anti-George Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
In bestowing their top honour on a clearly surprised Moore, Quentin Tarantino's jury overlooked the fact that his unfinished film is unlikely to ever be seen in exactly this form again and ignored also the rarity of giving the prize to adocumentary. Perhaps having an American jury president and three other USnationals on the jury helped put American politics in the forefront - although Tarantino himself told Moore that cinematic considerations came before political ones since the jury spanned the entire political spectrum.
Speaking atthe press conference afterwards, Michael Moore said that the preponderanceof Americans on the jury meant that his win could not just be dismissed as aFrench award. "The French are our good friends, the kind who tell you the truthto your face."
Politicscrept into the closing ceremony early from the beginning when the short filmwinner Catilin Mitulescu - just in case Michael Moore did not win - told anyonethat would listen not to re-elect George W Bush. This was quickly seconded byjuror Tim Roth. Moments later Keren Yedaya, the Israeli director of the muchdecorated Or, rounded on her native country for keeping in "slavery"three million Palestinians. Speaking at the press conference afterwards, sheadded: "Israel would be happier if I only said nice things, but I think mostIsraelis will actually agree with me."
Michael Moorehimself gave a far more controlled and reasoned speech that the last time hewas on stage in Cannes or at the Oscar ceremony this year. He joked that it hadbeen a tough few weeks as Disney has intervened to prevent Miramax distributingthe film in the US. "I hear that we have a distributor in Albania now. Thatmeans my film will now be seen in every country around the world, except one."He added: "I want to make sure that all those who died in Iraq did not die invain."
At the pressconference he said: "Bob and Harvey Weinstein are currently in negotiations tobuy back the film - negotiations are going well." He later added: "I'm veryoptimistic that it will be released ver"y soon. We could have a distributor bythe end of the week. In fact I'd be surprised if we didn't have one tonight.
At the postawards rolling press conference Jean-Pierre Bacri, winner of the script prize,said he was "delighted to learn that Fahrenheit 9/11 had won - eventhough I have not seen the film."
Biggest surprise of the night wasthat Wong Kar-wai came away empty handed, despite his desperate last minuteefforts to get the film 2046 to Cannes. The film was a favourite amongthe critical community and given that jury president Quentin Tarantino hadpreviously distributed films by Wong, must have divided the jury.
Beyond the political intentionsof the proceedings, the prizes were considered by many in the press to be atouch random.
There was a mixed reaction to theGrand Jury Prize for Korean film Old Boy and boos among the press corpsfor the first feature prize of the evening, the (shared) jury prize that wentto Tropical Malady. But there were loud cheers for Maggie Cheung for herpart in French director Olivier Assayas' Clean, a role that many othercritics felt she slept through. Afterwards Cheung said that the part of aformer drug addict seen as a bad influence on her husband, been one of thetoughest of her career. "Not for technical reasons, but simply because it wasso painful to be Emily."
Park explained that his film wasdifficult to put into any single genre category because he likes to draw onmany genres and styles. "DV is changing the way we watch films. I Hope my filmshave something for when you see them a second or third time." His actor ChoiMin Sik added a note of levity explaining that the octopus chomping scenerequired four takes and four octopi. "The first three were really flabby anddied when I bit into them. The fourth was great it bebelled and fought back."
Michael Moorecontinued the jollity. Asked whether the film would have had the same impacthad it been made as a piece of fiction Moore said: "It could have worked." Andnoted "At the beginning of the film you see them all putting on makeup. Theyare all actors. In fact I forgot to thank my cast, George W Bush, Dick Cheney,Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld."
Asked how hethought news of the award would be received in the White House, Moore repliedironically: "I'm sure George Bush will be very proud that an American has wonan international competition."