Cinema: Sweeping Cannes

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The Americans win big

Unlike Hollywood's Oscars, the Cannes Film Festival prizes do not travel well.

While Academy Awards virtually guarantee international box-office dividends to the winners, the Cannes honors have little commercial impact beyond the cinemas of France. Still, nobody ever lost money winning, and last week on the Riviera, the Americans cleaned up.

Virtually every major U.S. entry in the competition came away with a palme. The most popular winner was Sally Field, present and weeping on being named Best Actress for her performance as a Southern labor organizer in Martin Ritt's Norma Rae. Said she: "I'm so happy, happy, happy—just thinking about my name on French television. I always thought the film would be up there among the prizes, but it's the first time my work has ever been publicly honored." Jack Lemmon, who won Best Actor for his portrayal of a troubled nuclear engineer in James Bridges' The China Syndrome, was just as enthusiastic: "This is my first visit to Cannes, and I'm certainly glad I came.

People here are more open and more demonstrative than they are in the U.S. This is more important to me than an Oscar."

The Best Director citation went to another American, Terrence Malick, for Days of Heaven, a strong drama about migrant workers in turn-of-the-century Texas.

The crucial triumph, however, belonged to Director Francis Ford Coppola, whose incomplete, much delayed, $30 million Viet Nam epic, Apocalypse Now, shared the Golden Palm for Best Picture. Coppola had entered his movie, which stars Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, as a "work in progress"; presumably, he was awarded a prize in progress.

The Festival jurors (among them Actress Susannah York and Indian Director Satyajit Ray) insisted Apocalypse split honors with The Tin Drum, an adaptation of the Günter Grass novel by West German Director Volker Schlondorff (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum). It was the first time since 1973 that the Golden Palm had been awarded to two films. Some boos and jeers greeted the announcement of the decision. Cynics also noted Apocalypse did not have to contend with two popular films, Woody Allen's Manhattan and Milos Forman's Hair, both of which were screened outside of competition at Cannes. While Apocalypse's Cannes victory will not hurt, it may not be much help to a movie that must be an alltime box-office smash just to break even when it opens at American theaters in August.

The previous time Coppola won the Golden Palm, it was for The Conversation (1974), which trailed off unprofitably.