The Palm d'Or awarded Saturday night to Michael Moore's controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11" was a massive triumph for the filmmaker and his movie and a victory that far overshadowed the other prizes presented at the close of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
"Fahrenheit 9/11," made with Moore's customary mix of radical political analysis and hilarious satire -- as well as moving portrayals of the human loss on both sides in Iraq -- questions the Bush administration's conduct before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Passionately but humorously, the movie indicts Bush for "being asleep at the wheel" before Sept. 11 and too obsessed with Iraq afterward. It also won the 2004 best film prize from the International Federation of Film Critics.
Festival jury president Quentin Tarantino presented the top prize from the Lumiere Theater stage -- followed by a showing of the MGM Cole Porter bio-musical "De-Lovely" and one of the fest's all-time glamorous closing night parties.
When Tarantino, beaming, announced "Fahrenheit's" victory by pointedly saying, "The jury is proud to award the Palme d'Or this year for the Cannes Film Festival to `Fahrenheit 9/11,' the audience rose to its feet and cheered Moore to the stage again.
Moore , who had flown back from the U.S., where he briefly returned to attend his daughter's graduation from Sarah Lawrence College, was more measured. He cited "a great Republican president," Abraham Lincoln's stance on public honesty, and quietly thanked the festival and jury.
As for the film's vaunted domestic distribution problems -- dropped by Walt Disney Co. because of fears over its scathing portrayal of the Bush administration -- Moore told the Cannes audience and jury, "You will have ensured that the American people see this movie."
"I want to make sure that, if I do nothing else for the rest of this year, that those who died in Iraq have not died in vain," he said. "I have this great hope that things are going to change. I'm confident that I'm not alone. There are millions of Americans who are just like me. And I'm just like them."
The other 2004 winners were a surprising and eclectic lot that suggested strong influence by the jury's movie-savvy president. They included best actress Maggie Cheung of Hong Kong (for the French film "Clean"); best actor Yuuya Yagira from Japan (a first-time teenage actor, cited for Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Nobody Knows"); best director Tony Gatlif of France (for "Exils"); best screenwriters Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri of France for Jaoui's "Comme une Image"); and, the winner of the runner-up Grand Pix, Park Chan-wook's "Old Boy," a violent and stylish revenge thriller from South Korea.
Cheung, the famed Hong Kong-Chinese action movie star, won for a complete change of pace in writer-director Olivier Assayas' "Clean." There, she gave a realistic and emotionally charged performance as an ex-heroin addict, widow of a junkie rock composer-star, who tries to clean up her life so she can reunite with her young son.
Best actor Yuuya was only 12 when he began Kore-eda's "Nobody Knows," a poignant, fact-inspired drama of four children forced to fend for themselves in their Tokyo apartment after their mother abandons them. And as 12-year-old Akira, leader of the abandoned family, he helped movingly portray the children's all-too-real plight.
Gatlif, acclaimed French Gypsy writer-director of "Latcho Drom" and "Gadjo Dilo," won for "Exils," another of his raw, lively, melodic frescoes of lower-class life: a musical road movie about two young lovers, French Algerian immigrants who decide to return to their homeland. Actress-writer-director Jaoui and her ex-husband, actor-writer Bacri, won for their script for Jaoui's witty and urbane "Comme Une Image," full of stinging insights into French literary life and another troubled family.
Two winners with ties to Chicago shared the prix de jury or jury prize. Revered local actress Irma P. Hall was cited for her rousing comic performance as the intimidating and indestructible would-be victim of Tom Hanks and his heist mob in Joel and Ethan Coen's "The Ladykillers." And Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who studied filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute (and is known as "Joe" here) won for his Thai feature "Tropical Malady," which alternated a tender alternative romance with an eerie supernatural jungle fable.
The prize for best film in Un Certain Regard was awarded to one of the fest's most admired films, the French/West African "Moolaade," by 81-year-old Senegalese novelist/filmmaker Ousmane Sembene: the wry political fable of an African village plunged into turmoil by a women's revolt against female circumcision. Winner of the Ecumenical Jury's prize was Brazilian director Walter Salles' film of Che Guevara's youthful chronicle "Motorcycle Diaries."
Israeli director Keren Yedaya won the Camera d'Or, or First Film prize, for "Or," her debut feature on modern prostitution. Cinematographer Eric Gautier won a technical prize for his evocative photography on "Clean" and "The Motorcycle Diaries."
At the closing night party, a floating beachfront concert, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrissette, Natalie Cole and Aurora native John Barrowman sang Porter standards to the crowd.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" received a 25-minute standing ovation when it was screened at Cannes last week. On Sunday, the audience rose for a 12-minute standing ovation after the Palm d'Or reprise screening.
At the press conference, where a number of the filmmakers expressed pleasure at Moore's Palme d'Or, the Flint, Mich., homeboy said, "I'm still in a state of shock. The films that were shown this week were so incredible. I sat there amazed."
Responding to questions about an alleged French slant to the award, Moore noted that Tarantino's jury was an international group, with only one French citizen (actress Emmanuelle Beart) and four Americans (Tarantino, actress Kathleen Turner, Haitian-born writer Edwidge Danticat and director Jerry Schatzberg).
He also revealed that Tarantino had taken him aside onstage and said, according to Moore, "We want you to know that the politics of your film had nothing to do with this award. We are not here to give a political award. On this jury, we all have different politics -- and some of us have no politics."
Describing himself as a "kid who always loved going to the movies," Moore said, "The thing I love to do most is to be a moviegoer." He said the jury comments "meant more to me" than anything else in his biggest evening.
Tribune staff reporter Jacqueline Fitzgerald contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times