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Sherrybaby Wins Crystal Globe at Karlovy Vary

KARLOVY PRIZES ANNOUNCED: AND THE WINNERS WERE ...

GRAND PRIX -- CRYSTAL GLOBE (20,000 USD CASH!)
Surprisingly, to the American independent film "Sherrybaby" the feature debut of Laurie Collyer, 2005. Former drug addict Sherry (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is released from prison where she did time for robbery, and so on ... Considering that all the other main competition pictures were darkhorses as well, maybe this award is not so surprising. Too bad this festival doesn't have bookies and pari-mutuel betting.

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE -- Shared by two films: "Christmas Tree Upside Down" Bulgaria, 2006, and "Beauty in Trouble", (Kráska v nesnázich) the Czech entry by Jan Høebejk. This is a love triangle involving an ordinary young woman (top Czech star Ana Geislerová), her undeserving husband, and a kind elderly Czech-Italian. The press release describes this as "a simple plot reminiscent of a story from a dime novel" and Czech critical opinion is that, while this is an okay flick, it isn't up to the standards of Høejbek's previous work, a director who is regarded as one of the standard bearers of the younger generation of Czech filmmakers.

BEST DIRECTOR: Young Norwegian director Joachim Trier for the film "Reprise", a film about young people, literature, punk rock, madness, love, and discovering one's own limits.

BEST ACTRESS: American Maggie Gyllenhaal, for her role in "Sherrybaby".

BEST ACTOR: Andrzej Hudziak, Poland, for his role as the self-centered Warsaw poet, Miron Bialoszewski (what poet isn't self centered?) and the bizarre relationship he had with his blind housekeeper, Jadwiga Stanczak, in the film "Several People, Little Time", directed by Polish veteran Andrzej Baranski. The blind woman is played by Polish superstar, Krystyna Janda, who was unforgettable in Wajda's anti-communist classic "Man of Marble" and is still pretty much the reigning femme of Polish cinema. In Poland this is regarded as a Janda film far more than a Hudziak film, and Janda was named
best actress at Gdynia last year for her very stylized impersonation of a blind woman -- in this writer's opinion, an embarrassingly lame performance.
In fact, this is a very weak film, built around what amounts to a parody of your standard blind character, and I find it rather odd that Hudziak who is regarded as a secondary actor in his own country, was singled out for the top actor prize here. But, then again, juries are sometimes more unfathomable than the dark horses they pick.

SPECIAl MENTION: The new French drama "L'Enfant d'une Autre" (This Girl is Mine!) written and directed by Virginie Wagon, is a gripping drama involving a fight for posession of a twelve year old girl by two women, one of whom believes the child was stolen from her years ago. this one I would place in
the realm of minor discoveries -- worth while if it ever comes your way.

In the "EAST OF WEST" section, an established tradition at this festival, awarded films included "Monkeys in Winter" from Bulgaria, and "White Palms", a Hungarian prize winner in Budapest earlier this year, directed by young up-and-coming director, Szabolcs Hajdu. The film is a fascinating probe into the psyche of a Hungarian gymnastics coach who emmigrates to Canada where skeletons in his personal closet come back to haunt him. Worth while.

The FIPRESCI AWARD of the International film critics association was accorded to the Finnish film "Frozen City" directed by Aku Louhimies. This film which is basically about the collapse of a young marriage, has been described as a Finnish version of Scorcese's "Taxidriver", not only because this happens to be the occupation of the hapless husband, but also because of the tense desperation in which the film is drenched. Echoes of Scorcese aside, the lead performances are top notch and the picture itself, gripping.
Two interesting people on the Fipresci jury this year are Atilla Dorsay, the dean of Turkish film appraisers, author of many popular books on film and a walking encyclopedia of world cinema, and pert, vivacious Finnish film critic Marita Nyrhinen, who has been an enlivening presence at Karlovy for many years. What is cute about this pairing is that Atilla and Marita, coming from the top and the bottom of the European map, represent a kind of North and South of East of West --er --North by Northwest, anyone?.

"Valkoinen Kaupunki" or "Frozen City", rapidly getting to be known as "The Finnish Taxidriver", picked up several otherprizes including EUROPA CINEMAS LABEL distinction, which will assure that this film is widely distributed all over Europe. So, clearly there are other interesting Finnish filmmakers besides the brothers Kaurismaki. Hopefully this film will open the door to other revelations from the upper Northeast of the continent.

It seems there are more juries in Karlovy than you can shake a stick out, so, to mention every single award or distinction would be rather tedious and pointless, however, of interest in passing is the fact that the very Catholic ECUMENICAL JURY gave a special mention to the Iranian film "Shab Bekheir Farmandeh" (Goodbye Life) directed by the rather matronly looking Ensieh Shah-Hoseini, always clad in traditional Islamic headscarf and floorlength outer coat. When I saw her on the promenade this afternoon, she asked me if this "Catholic Prize" was of any importance, and I assured her that it was, especially anywhere around the Vatican City. The film itself centers on the experiences of a fragile woman reporter on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war, having to come to grips with suicidal feelings induced by the horrors all around her. Since suicide is a cardinal sin according to Catholic doctrine, the struggle to overcome this sin (hardly a sin in Islamic suicide-bomber culture) may have been uppermost in the minds of the ecumenic jurors. In any case, official Catholic recognition of an Islamic film is surely a positive sign, although of what I'm not quite sure.

Alex, Karlovy Vary

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