“Holy Motors,” Leos Carax’s surreal French fantasy-drama-thriller-romance (and then some) about a chameleonic actor and his weird limousine journey through nearly a dozen alternate lives, was the big winner at last week’s award ceremony of the 48th annual Chicago International Film Festival. The festival closed tonight.
Carax’s film, his first since “Pola X” in 1999, won the fest’s top prize, the Gold Hugo for Best Film, from the festival jury. “Holy Motors” also took Silver Hugos for Best Actor – Carax regular Denis Lavant – and Best Cinematography, awarded to Yves Capes and Caroline Champetier for their poetic and eerie view of Paris.
Ulla Skoog of Sweden was named Best Actress for her moving role as Puste, the tragic wife of the uncompromising anti-Nazi Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt in writer-director Jan Troell’s superb biographical drama, “The Last Sentence.”
The other awards in the international competition went to Michel Franco’s Mexican-French entry, “After Lucia,” a wounding indictment of high-school bullying that took the Special Jury Prize, and to Merzak Allouache’s “The Repentant” (Algeria/France), which won a Silver Hugo Special Mention.
The New Directors Competition Gold Hugo went to Peter Bergendy’s “The Exam,” a thriller about the dangers of police state surveillance set in ’50s Hungary. The runner-up Silver Hugo was awarded to Zdenek Jiraski’s “Flowerbirds,” a dark look at contemporary family life in the Czech Republic.
The winner of the After Dark Competition, devoted to horror movies, was a familiar name. Brandon Cronenberg, the son of David Cronenberg, took the Gold Hugo for “Antiviral” (Canada/USA), his dystopian futuristic shocker about an industry devoted to celebrity disease. The runner-up was Jaume Balaguero’s “Sleep Tight” (Spain), a psychological thriller about a Barcelona doorman with too many apartment keys.
The Career Achievement Award was given to one-time Chicago-based movie actress Joan Allen.
This year’s festival, an excellent one, offered 175 films from more than 50 countries. The CIFF award ceremony was held in festive surroundings at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, and featured presentations by ebullient CIFF founder/artistic director Michael Kutza and others. The main feature jury included directors Patrice Chereau of France and Joe Maggio of the U.S., actress Alice Krige of the UK and South Africa, actor/producer Amir Waked of Egypt, and Daniele Cauchard of Canada, general director of the Montreal World Film Festival. As usual, it was a great time.