Koreeda’s film wins jury prize at Cannes festival

Lesbian romance 'Blue is the Warmest Color' wins Palme d'Or

Kyodo, AP

“Like Father, Like Son,” directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, received the Prix du Jury at the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival on Sunday.

It was the first Japanese film to receive an award in the competition division since Naomi Kawase’s “The Mourning Forest,” which won the Grand Prix in 2007. Kawase served as a member of this year’s jury, the first Japanese on the panel in 17 years. It was headed this time by U.S. director Steven Spielberg.

“I would like to share my joy in receiving the award with the cast and crew of the film, including (lead actor Masaharu) Fukuyama,” Koreeda said in his acceptance speech at the ceremony’s closing.

Other Japanese films — “Shield of Straw” by Takashi Miike in the regular competition and “The Meteorite and Impotence” by Omoi Sasaki in the short film competition — went home empty-handed.

“Like Father, Like Son” (“Soshite Chichi ni Naru”) is a family drama depicting a middle-class couple who learn the child they have brought up for six years is not their biological son but instead was switched at birth with a child from a poor family.

It was the third Koreeda film to be screened at the Cannes competition in 12 years. The last was “Nobody Knows” (“Dare mo Shiranai”), for which Yuya Yagira won the best actor award in 2004.

The tender, sensual lesbian romance “Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele” took the top honor, the Palme d’Or.

The jury, headed by Spielberg, took the unusual move of awarding the Palme not just to Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to the film’s two stars: Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. The three clutched each other as they accepted the award, one of cinema’s greatest honors.

Exarchopoulos stars in the French film as a 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when she falls in love with an older woman, played by Seydoux. The three-hour film caught headlines for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes, but bewitched festival crowds with its heartbreaking coming-of-age story.

“Blue is the Warmest Color,” which premiered at Cannes just days after France legalized gay marriage, was hailed as a landmark film for its intimate portrait of a same-sex relationship.

“The film is a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning,” Spielberg said.

Spielberg called Kechiche, who has previously directed “Games of Love and Chance” and “The Secret of the Gran,” a “sensitive, observant filmmaker.”

Cannes’ feting of “Blue is the Warmest Color” came the same day tens of thousands of protesters marched against the new law Sunday in Paris, and police clashed with some demonstrators. Seydoux called the film “a witness to our time.”

The Palme d’Or, which the jury selected from the 20 films in competition at Cannes, had been viewed as a relatively wide-open race ahead of Sunday’s awards. The festival audience embraced the jury’s choice, giving Kechiche and his two stars a standing ovation. “Blue is the Warmest Color” had ranked highest in critics polls at the French Riviera festival.

The jury otherwise spread the awards around. The Coen brothers’ 1960s folk revival “Inside Llewyn Davis” earned the Grand Prix, Cannes’ second most prestigious award. The film’s breakout star, Oscar Isaac, accepted the award for the Coens, who won the Palme in 1991 for “Barton Fink.”

Best actor went to Bruce Dern for Alexander Payne’s father-son road trip “Nebraska.” Berenice Bejo, the “Artist” star, won best actress for her performance as a single mother balancing a visiting ex-husband and a new fiance in Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past.”

Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante took best director for his brutal drug war drama “Heli.” Best screenplay went to Zhangke Jia’s “A Touch Of Sin,” a four-part depiction of the violence wrought by China’s economic boom.

Singaporean director Anthony Chen won the Camera d’Or, the award for best first feature, for his “Ilo Ilo.” Set during the Asia financial crisis in 1997, the film is about a Singaporean family and its new maid.