For a change, the jury at the Cannes Film Festival found itself in agreement with critics as it voted the prestigious Palme d'Or for best film Saturday to the Romanian entry 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. The film tells of a young woman's effort to get an abortion two years before the toppling of Romania's ruthless Communist regime in 1989. The film by director Cristian Mungiu received overwhelmingly favorable reviews when it opened at the beginning of the festival and was quickly bought by IFC for domestic release. Accepting the award from presenter Jane Fonda, Mungiu said that only six months ago he was struggling to find enough money to complete his film. "You don't necessarily need a big budget and big stars to tell a story that everyone will listen to," the 39-year-old director told the crowd. American artist-turned-filmmaker Julian Schnabel, an American working with French actors, won the best directing prize for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a non-fiction account about a writer who was completely paralyzed by a stroke and could communicate only by blinking at letters. Another American, Gus Van Sant, received the special 60th Anniversary Prize for his film Paranoid Parkabout a teenage skateboarder who accidentally kills a guard. The Grand Prix award -- essentially the second-place trophy for best film -- went to the Japanese film The Mourning Forest, from director Naomi Kawase. Korea's Jeon Do-yeon won the best actress prize for her performance in Secret Sunshine, while the best actor prize went to Russia's Konstantin Lavronenko for The Banishment.


In the separate Un Certain Regard competition, which honors young filmmakers, the winner was also Romanian -- Cristian Nemescu, whose film, California Dreamin' is set during the Kosovo war of 1999. Nemescu died in an automobile accident shortly before completing the film at the age of 27. Earlier in the week the jury had decided not to judge the film since Nemescu did not finish it, but after screening it, the jurors changed their minds. Jury president Pascale Ferran called it "far and above, the most lively and liberated film proposal we've seen in our ten days here."


It may have opened in more theaters (4,362) than any other movie in history, but Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's Endfell short of breaking the record for the biggest weekend box-office take of all time, set by Spider-Man 3at the beginning of the month. Nevertheless, according to initial estimates, the movie did earn a hearty $112.5 million over the three-day period (or $126.5 million if Thursday previews are included), an average of $25,800 per theater. It is also certain to shatter the record for a Memorial Day weekend set only last year by X-Men: The Last Stand, when it took in $122.9 million over the four-day holiday. "Fifth-biggest opening of all time. There's really nothing to complain about here," Media By Numbers chief Paul Dergarabedian told the Associated Press. The film had faced tough competition from Spider-Man 3,which was still performing strongly, taking in an additional $13.7 million to put it over the $300-million mark at $303 million, and also from Shrek the Third, which took in $51 million in its second week. In a separate interview with Bloomberg News, Dergarabedian remarked, "These summer movie blockbusters are opening big and dropping off big, but they make money fast."

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, $112.5 million; 2. Shrek the Third, $51 million; 3. Spider-Man 3, $13.7 million; 4. Bug, $3.3 million; 5. Waitress,$3.1 million; 6. 28 Weeks Later, $2.5 million; 7. Georgia Rule, $1.9 million; 8. Disturbia, $1.8 million; 9. Wild Hogs, $1.1 million; 10. Fracture,$1.08 million.


Paul Newman, who has not appeared in front of the cameras since The Road to Perdition in 2001 (he was the voice of Doc, a 1951 Hudson, in last year's animated Cars), is again talking about retirement. In an interview with ABC News, Newman, who is 82, said that he has begun to lose his memory, confidence and invention. "So I think [acting is] pretty much a closed book for me." He had made similar comments a year ago, but had suggested he was considering one last screen appearance, setting off immediate speculation that he would team up again with Robert Redford, with whom he had made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidand The Sting for the final film. There was no mention of that project during the ABC interview.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.