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Turkish Drama ‘Winter Sleep’ Wins Palme d’Or at Cannes

Julianne Moore and Timothy Spall win acting honors; Bennett Miller takes directing award for ”Foxcatcher“

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s austere, three-hour-and-16-minute drama “Winter Sleep” has won the Palme d’Or as the best film at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, making it the most daring and unconventional Palme winner in years.

Set in a remote, snowbound village in Anatolia and made up largely of lengthy conversations between the town’s residents as they grapple with issues of guilt and conscience, the film won largely favorable (though not unanimous) reviews and was a favorite of the jury led by Australian director Jane Campion.

“‘Winter Sleep’ is a slow, meditative, meandering work that walks a fine line between mesmerizing and unendurable,” wrote TheWrap after its first Cannes screenings. ” … This film doesn’t reward patience, it demands it. But for viewers who are patient enough, ‘Winter Sleep’ is rich, subtle and emotionally wrenching.”

Bilge had won awards at Cannes for previous films, but this is his first Palme d’Or. His was the longest film in the running by more than 45 minutes.

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The competition featured a number of films with higher profiles in the American market, including Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars,” Tommy Lee Jones‘ “The Homesman” and Mike Leigh‘s “Mr. Turner” — but in the end, the jury opted for a challenging and slow-paced meditation from one of the most respected directors in Eastern Europe.

The film that took the runner up award, the Grand Prix, was Alice Rohrwacher’s “La Meraviglie” (“The Wonders”), another drama overshadowed at Cannes by flashier competition.

Bennett Miller was named the festival’s best director for “Foxcatcher.”

Julianne Moore won the best actress award for her raucous, daring performance as an aging movie star in David Cronenberg’s dark Hollywood satire “Maps to the Stars,” while Timothy Spall was named best actor for playing  the brilliant but uncommunicative artist J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh‘s “Mr. Turner.”

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The Prix du Jury, which is essentially a third-place award, went in a tie to films from the competition’s youngest director, 25-year-old Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy,” and its oldest, 83-year-old French icon Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language.”

The Russian film “Leviathan,” which many viewers thought was the Palme d’Or frontrunner, won the award for best screenplay a few hours after closing a deal for North American distribution with Sony Pictures Classics.

“Party Girl,” the opening-night film of the Un Certain Regard section, won the Camera d’Or as the festival’s best first film. The award was open to directorial debuts from any section of the festival.

Films that were considered strong contenders going into the awards ceremony also included the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” and Abderrhame Sissako’s “Timbuktu.”

Also read: 10 Cannes Winners and Losers (So Far): Robert Pattinson Scores as Ryan Gosling Bores

Other films in competition included Tommy Lee Jones‘ “The Homesman,” Naomi Kawase’s “Still the Water,” Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent,” Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales,” Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Search,” Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall,” Olivier Assayas’ “The Clouds of Sils Maria” and Atom Egoyan’s “Captives.”

While Cannes awards are typically announced on Sunday, the final day of the festival, this year’s closing ceremony was moved up one day because of European elections.

The jury consisted of five women and four men. In addition to Campion as president, it included directors Sofia Coppola, Nicolas Winding Refn, Jeon Do-Yeon and Jia Zhangke, actresses Carole Bouquet and Leila Hatami and actors Willem Dafoe and Gael Garcia Bernal.

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The winners:

Palme d’Or: “Winter Sleep,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Grand Prix: “La Meraviglie,” Alice Rohrwacher
Prix du Jury: (tie) “Mommy,” Xavier Dolan; “Goodbye to Language,” Jean-Luc Godard
Best Director: Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Best Screenplay: Andrey Zvyaginstsev and Oleg Negin, “Leviathan”
Camera d’Or (Best First Feature): “Party Girl,” Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis
Best Actor: Timothy Spall, “Mr. Turner”
Best Actress: Julianne Moore, “Maps to the Stars”
Palme d’Or, Short Film: “Leidi,” Simon Mesa Soto
Short Film Special Mention: “Aissa,” Clement Trehin-Lalanne; “Ja Vielsker,” Halivar Witzo