Cannes, France – The Grand Prix was all but split three ways here Friday, as the jury of the Cannes Film Festival handed out the annual festival awards.
As expected, the grand prize, or “Palme d’Or,” went to “Kagemusha,” the three-hour samurai epic by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. But the jury split the prize, awarding an equal first to “All That Jazz,” the American musical drama by Bob Fosse.
The Special Jury Prize was unanimously voted to “Mon Oncle d’Amerique,” a combination of melodrama and intellectual exercise by France’s Alain Resnais.
And then in an unprecedented move the Cannes jury announced that its Special Jury Prize should be considered equal with the Palme d'Or – in effect, making for three first places.
The voting reportedly reflected a sharp division between jury members who felt first place should go to “Kagemusha” alone, and those who felt Kurosawa’s film should be bypassed. “All That Jazz,” which had strong support from the American members of the jury, did not fare well with the French critics and this award was something of a surprise.
The other two major awards were for best director, to Poland’s Krzysztof Zanussi, for “Constans” ("The Constant Factor") and for best screenplay to Italy’s Ettori Scola, for “La Terrazza.”
The only major surprise in the prize-giving was the jury’s complete omission of any award for veteran American director Samuel Fuller, whose “The Big Red One” was more favorably received by the French critics than any other film in the festival.
For Japan’s Kurosowa, the grand prix honored a lifetime of filmmaking, and represents a career comeback. The 70-year-old director first popularized Japanese cinema in the Western world with his “Rashomon” (1950), which won that year’s Venice Film Festival. But in recent years his career has fallen on hard times, and “Kagemusha” was his first film made in Japan in 10 years. He was able to make the $6.5 million production only after American directors Francis (“Apocalypse Now”) Coppola and George (“Star Wars”) Lucas arranged American backing through Twentieth Century-Fox. In a stroke of poetic justice, “Kagemusha” shared the Cannes first prize one year after “Apocalypse Now” did.
Fosse’s “All That Jazz” is a film that has sharply divided critics and audiences since it was first released in America last December. The autobiographical story of a harassed and overworked Broadway director, it dealt with both the glamour of show business and its underside of self-destruction. The Resnais film, “Mon Oncle d’Amerique,” was an intellectual challenge for audiences. Opening with an explanation of human behavior from a viewpoint of biological determinism, it audaciously paralleled the lives of human beings and laboratory rats.
The awards were announced here at noon Friday, and presented in black-tie ceremonies Friday night. This year’s jury president was actor Kirk Douglas, and the other American members were Charles Champlin, film critic of the Los Angeles Times, and actress Leslie Caron.