«et je don’t speak very good English»
Following its inauguration in West-Berlin last year and true to its European idea, the 2nd European Film Awards were celebrated in Paris, European Capital of Culture 1989. Taking place at the festive Art Deco Théâtre des Champs-Elysées with the French garde republicaine attending, the ceremony was opened by Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann, this year's president of the jury, from a balcony she shared with celebrities like Fanny Ardant, Melina Mercouri, Yves Montand, and Klaus Kinski. Leading through the evening was a talkative Frédéric Mitterrand who introduced cinematographer Walter Lassally (UK), actor Fernando Rey (Spain), composer Philippe Sarde (France) and directors Dusan Makavejev (Yugoslavia), Gillo Pontecorvo (Italy) and István Szabó (Hungary) as further members of the jury.
When the stage curtain was lifted it revealed a giant staircase in reference to that of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN with soldiers and a woman with pram, but also with characters from various other classics such as silent film star Pola Negri, Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas, Abel Gance’s Napoleon, Sarah Bernard, Dr Caligari, Max Lander, Louise Brooks as Pabst’s Lulu, Murnau’s Nosferato, and Dreyer’s Jeanne d’Arc.
After an interlude on comedy with French acting stars Sabine Azéma and Isaach De Bankolé, a touching audio message from Marlene Dietrich was played before the actual award ceremony began with Franco-Swiss actress Agnes Soral and her Spanish colleague Fernando Rey entering the stage. They presented a Special Jury Award for LIFE AND NOTHING BUT to a baffled Bertrand Tavernier who said he had had „no idea“ that his film had even been considered, and another one to the film CINEMA PARADISO “for its love of cinema”. The film's director Giuseppe Tornatore explained in Italian that he was very happy and thought it a very important award.
A Special Mention went to “the creative spirit of the new films coming from Sarajevo” and there to accept the award was the actress Snezana Bogdanovic who thanked the jury for showing that “what we are doing is not useless.”
Since the ceremony was held almost exclusively in French there were then a series of “Je ne parle pas” statements from presenters like Ben Kingsley and winners like Livia Gyarmathy who was honoured for the documentary RECSK 1950-1953.
One of the evening's highlights was the assembly of the “immortal names of French cinema” which brought acting legends Micheline Presle, Françoise Arnaud and Pierre Bonberger on stage to present the award Young European Film of the Year – a task they mastered with little confusion and lots of charm and enjoyment as they tried to read out the films' original titles to the great amusement of the audience. The award went to 300 MILES TO HEAVEN by Maciej Dejczer who dedicated his award “to the people who have to leave their mother countries and their homes,” which lead to his fellow Polish director Roman Polanski talking about life in exile, something a lot of European artists have known.
German actress Hanna Schygulla then presented Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar with a piece of the Berlin Wall, expressing her hope that it would bring luck “to him, to us, to a Europe without borders”. Together they announced the European Screenwriter of the Year which went to Maria Khmelik for LITTLE VERA. The Russian screenwriter surprised everyone including her interpreter by exclaiming: “Lo mas curioso es que mi madre es española!” (Most bizarre is that my mother is Spanish!)
British actress Edna Doré was honoured for her supporting role in HIGH HOPES which also garnered Best Actress for Ruth Sheen, European Actor of the Year went to Philippe Noiret for his roles in CINEMA PARADISO and LIFE AND NOTHING BUT. In an event where a lot of those on stage didn't speak the dominant language, couldn't find the right envelope and had nowhere to put their trophy, the French actor had the laughs on his side when he announced: “Hollywood would have never managed to organise an evening quite like this one.”
French actress Andréa Ferréol and German director Volker Schlöndorff performed a multilingual welcome and presented a European Cinema Society Special Award to French veteran producer Anatole Dauman. This year's Lifetime Achievement Award went to Italian filmmaking icon Federico Fellini who couldn't attend but had French actress/model Capucine read out a letter.
Acting stars Fanny Ardent (France) and Rupert Everett (UK) presented Andrew Dickson with European Composer of the Year for HIGH HOPES and Greek actress/politician Melina Mercouri and French actor Yves Montand announced the European Director of the Year which went to Hungarian Géza Bereményi for ELDORADO.
The award probably most anxiously awaited, European Film of the Year, went to LANDSCAPE IN THE MIST by Theo Angelopoulos from Greece before Liv Ullman closed the ceremony by stating: „We need European film more than ever to help us to give wings to our dreams.”