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Polanski film wins top honor at Cannes Film Festival

| Monday, May 27, 2002

CANNES, France (AP) — "The Pianist," Roman Polanski's highly personal film about the Holocaust, won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday.

The film stars Adrien Brody as a brilliant Polish pianist who manages to escape the Warsaw ghetto. As boy in Poland, Polanski himself survived the Krakow ghetto but lost his mother at a Nazi camp.

In a year of especially high-quality films, second place, or the grand prize, went to "The Man Without a Past" by Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, a whimsical tale of an amnesia victim who rediscovers life and love in the slums of Helsinki.

Polanski, 68, was born in France but moved to Poland with his parents two years before the outbreak of World War II. He says he always knew he would return to Poland to make a Holocaust film, but was waiting for the right story. He found it in the memoirs of pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman.

"I'm honored and moved to accept this prize for a film that represents Poland," Polanski said, as his star, Brody, wiped away tears in the audience.

Best director went to U.S. director Paul Thomas Anderson for his darkly comic "Punch-Drunk Love," starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, and also to Im Kwon-taek, the South Korean director of "Chihwaseon," a beautifully filmed look at the life of a 19th-century Korean painter.

Best actor went to Belgium's Olivier Gourmet of "The Son" by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Gourmet played a man who refuses to take a boy into his carpentry workshop, then becomes obsessed with him and follows him through the streets.

The Dardenne brothers won the 1999 Palme D'Or for "Rosetta."

Best actress went to Finland's Kati Outinen, who played the Salvation Army worker who falls in love with the amnesia victim in Kaurismaki's "The Man Without a Past."

A special prize marking Cannes' 55th anniversary went to Michael Moore, whose "Bowling for Columbine" took a scathing look at the gun culture in the United States, starting with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. It was the first documentary screened in the main competition in 46 years.

The jury prize, another special honor, went to "Divine Intervention" by Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, a film that took the risk of using humor to depict the tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Best screenplay went to Paul Laverty for "Sweet Sixteen," British director Ken Loach's tale of a young boy struggling against the odds in Glasgow, Scotland.

This year's jury was headed by director David Lynch, and also included actresses Sharon Stone and Michelle Yeoh and director Walter Salles.

Of three U.S. films entered, only Alexander Payne's "About Schmidt," starring Jack Nicholson, went home without a prize. Nicholson was considered a contender for best actor with his star turn as a retired insurance salesman in Nebraska.

Also passed over was British director Mike Leigh's "All or Nothing," about a working-class family in a housing project, and all four French entries. One of those, "Irreversible" by Gaspar Noe, shocked many with its long and violent rape scene.

This year's star quotient rose dramatically when Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz made a quick visit to the Croisette, accompanying Martin Scorsese for a sneak preview of the long-awaited, still unfinished "Gangs of New York."

Scorsese screened only 20 minutes of the 19th-century epic on gang warfare in lower New York City, but it was a crowd-pleaser, especially for what looks to be a vivid performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as a vicious gang leader.

The festival opened with accolades for Woody Allen, who at age 66 finally made the trek to the Riviera, thrilling organizers who gave him a lifetime achievement award given only once in the past — to Ingmar Bergman.

The reclusive director presented his "Hollywood Ending" out of competition, but refused to watch it, because he doesn't like seeing his own films.

Allen joked about France's fondness for him, saying the French have two misconceptions: "that I'm an intellectual, because I wear these glasses, and that I'm an artist, because my films lose money all the time. Neither of those things are true."

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