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French Triumph At Cannes But Flop At Eurovision

Jun 3, 2008
For the first time in 21 years a French film has scooped top honours for best movie at the Cannes film festival.

"Entre les murs" (The Class) directed by Laurent Cantet won the coveted Palme d'Or on a unanimous decision by the jury.

It was only the fourth time a French production had triumphed since the gaggle of glitterati first started gathering for the annual film festival on the Côte d'Azur in 1946.

The film is a mix of documentary and fiction, following the lives of a class and their teacher in a tough inner city secondary school in Paris over the course of a year.

It was written by, and stars François Begaudeau - himself a teacher - with most of the other roles being filled by real students and teachers.

The president of the jury, US actor Sean Penn, was fulsome in his praise for the winner calling it an amazing film. Before the festival he had insisted that it was impossible to separate film from politics, and had promised that the winning film would be a reflection of the current climate.

Most would agree that "Entre les murs" is just that.

While the win might have come as something of a surprise given the relatively low profile of the film - mainly because it was shown on the last day of competition - there were beaming smiles all round as the French media gave itself a collective pat on the back for the win.

The national state television channel, France 2, was particularly pleased with itself as it was one of the main financial backers of the film and ran a live interview with Cantet, Begaudeau and some of the students at the end of its prime time news on Sunday.

The film isn't actually due for general release until October this year, but already the culture minister, Christine Albanel, has jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and called for it to be screened in secondary schools throughout the country.

While Cannes attracts filmmakers and actors from around the globe, it's also a special chance for some of Hollywood's modern greats to bask in the sun and even more importantly their own glory as they give the assembled paparazzi more than their fair share of photo ops. And this year naturally was no exception.

There was the world premiere of the latest "Indiana Jones" movie with its star Harrison Ford showing up along with the director Steven Spielberg - who popped off to Paris to collect the Legion d'honneur. Of course "Brangelina" pitched up looking resplendently pregnant with twins - well at least one half of them did. Eva Longoria, Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood and many, many others also tripped their way along La Croisette.

So the red carpet has been rolled up and another fun-packed carnival has come to an end.

While France might have triumphed at Cannes, there was no weekend "cultural" double whammy. At Saturday's annual music jamboree, considered by many to be inappropriately called the Eurovision Song contest, the French contestant, Sébastien Tellier, could only manage 19th place (out of 25).

He notched up a miserly 47 points at the knees-up held this year in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, despite resorting to English lyrics and putting in a performance of his electro-pop "Divine" that by any critical standards was both professional and entertaining.

Still Eurovision, would not be Eurovision without the usual tactical voting as countries awarded top marks to neighbours and (former) political allies. Russia might have been victorious this time around and consequently won the right to host next year's contest, but already there are calls for the "Big Four" (financial contributors), France, Germany, Britain and Spain to withdraw from future participation.

So no "douze points" for Tellier or France in Belgrade, but top marks at Cannes.
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com
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