A Golden Leopard for the troublesome Brisseau
by Emmanuel Cuénod
12/08/2012 - A French film had not been awarded the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival since 1999, when Hélène Angel won with Skin of Man, Heart of Beast. There had been high hopes for a French winner last year. With no less than four French films in the selection, it seemed impossible that the Golden Leopard would be anything other than French. But an imaginative jury decided otherwise, and chose a Swiss-Argentinian co-production, with the deliciously evanescent title of Abrir puertas y ventanas [trailer, film focus] (lit. “To open doors and windows”, international title: Back to Stay), as the winner.
It is a great irony that it is now thanks to one of France’s most terrible children, Jean-Claude Brisseau, that the country has made a comeback in Locarno. Led by Thai cinema’s prodigal son, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the jury at the 65th edition of “the smallest of the great festivals” handed its Golden Leopard to The Girl from Nowhere [trailer]. The film was shot on a tiny budget, and divided the critics as soon at it had been screened in the International Competition.
It had been announced that this year would be an American year, with an exceptional presence of independent US filmmakers in the festival’s competition sections as well as on the Piazza Grande. It was no surprise then to find Bob Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me in the list of winners. This eccentric and inoffensive comedy won the Special Jury Prize.
This year’s other great winner is a Chinese-Korean co-production, Wo hai you hua yao shuo. The film won two awards: the Leopard for Best Director for its author, Ying Liang, and the Leopard for Best Actress for An Nai. The latter was celebrated alongside Austrian actor Walter Saabel, who was awarded the Leopard for Best Actor for his role in Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s Der Glanz des Tages.
Besides theses winners, Locarno festival-goers will also remember other great moments at the festival, mostly on the grandiose stage on the Piazza Grande. If they were to remember one, it would be Harry Belafonte’s very beautiful – and very long, as it lasted over 20 minutes – speech, after Olivier Père, the festival’s director, awarded him a Leopard of Honour for his life’s work. He was far more elegant than Alain Delon and definitely more verbose than Leos Carax, who were both also honoured on the shores of the Lake Maggiore this year, and he created exactly was is expected from this kind of event: intense emotions, followed by an authentic explosion of joy.
(Translated from French)