Lars von Trier's Dancer In The Dark was the clear winner at this year's European Film Awards in Paris, taking away the top honour of Best European Film 2000, as well as the European Actress award for Bjork. The film, which has polarised critics ever since it was first seen in Cannes this year, also walked away with the prize for Best European Director and Best European Actress in the People's Choice Awards voted for by movie fans.
The other big film prize, the Screen International European Film Award 2000 for Best Non-European film went to Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood For Love. This ravishing mood piece from Hong Kong beat out some heavy-hitting contenders that included both Ridley Scott's Gladiator and Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
But in the end the night belonged largely to the Nordic countries, in what seemed at times like a repeat of this year's closing ceremonies at the Cannes Film Festival. In addition to the four prizes for Dancer In The Dark, a fifth prize, the People's Choice Award for Best European Actor, was won by Icelandic actor Ingvar E. Sigurdsson for his performance in Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's Angels Of The Universe.
The host country of the 13th edition of the awards, France, also came away with five distinctions: European Actor 2000 for Sergi Lopez (Harry, He Is Here To Help); European Screenwriter 2000 for Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (It Takes All Kinds); the European Discovery 2000 - Fassbinder Award for Laurent Cantet (Human Resources); the European Documentary Award - Prix Arte for Agnes Varda (The Gleaners and I); and a European Achievement In World Cinema for actor Jean Reno.
Other awards included European Cinematographer 2000 for Vittorio Storaro's work on Carlos Saura's Goya In Bordeaux; European Short Film 2000 - Prix UIP for Hungarian director Livia Gyarmarthy's Our Stork; and the European Critics' Award 2000 - Prix Fipresci for Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Clouds Of May
While the awards ceremony venue in the Theatre National de Chaillot opposite the Eiffel Tower was definitely an improvement on previous years, many of those attending complained about the at times "below the belt" patter of presenters Antoine "Eurotrash" de Caunes and Rupert Everett who trotted out insults about the community of European film critics before announcing the Prix Fipresci.
However, there was more disappointment and irritation among many of those in the audience that the recipients of the two top awards - Bjork and Lars von Trier - had not come to Paris in person to accept their prizes. Despite jokes made by de Caunes and Everett about von Trier being on the way in his VW camper to arrive in time for the end of the evening's event at around 2am, the Awards' organisers appeared to be severely let down by someone who clearly benefits from so many European countries banding together to help finance his films. In her acceptance speech, his producer Vibeke Windelov thanked Dancer In The Dark's 28 co-producers for investing in the film.
At the same time, the high points of the evening were Harvey Keitel presenting the European Achievement in World Cinema award to French actor Jean Reno (although a second award to Roberto Benigni curiously went unmentioned in the proceedings) and Richard Harris basking in the limelight of a standing ovation on receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award. Clearly in his element, the veteran actor congratulated the European Film Academy on giving him the award - "there is plenty of life in me to do parts and I'm not expensive" - and fired a broadside at the British Academy of Film & Television Arts for having ignored him in their lineup of gongs "annually".