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Cannes, Day 7: de Oliveira at 100

Posted by Ty Burr  May 19, 2008 11:22 AM

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What does a 100-year-old working filmmaker do? Anything he wants, obviously. Today Portugal's Manoel de Oliveira received a Golden Palm at Cannes for his body of work -- 46 features and short films that are challenging, frustrating, mystical, and very much alive. Clint Eastwood was a few rows behind me (that's him above shaking hands with de Oliveira), and Cannes jury foreman Sean Penn was in the hall along with other jury members. It isn't often you get to stand up for a living legend.

A short tribute video was screened (in which de Oliveira casually mentioned that the first films he saw, "hand-in-hand with my father," were the earliest of silent films), as well as the director's first work: the 1931 "Labor on the River Douro," a poetic and playful aquatic example of the "city symphony" documentary genre then in vogue. In between, de Oliveira hopped up the steps to the stage -- really, we should all be this spry at 100 -- and spoke to the crowd about how he much preferred receiving an award this way because he doesn't like competition.

Here's some video of the standing O and the director's beaming response, with a quick climpse of Clint in the audience. The man on stage in white is the great French actor Michel Piccoli, the bald gentleman is Cannes festival founder Gilles Jacob, and the compartive kid is current festival director Thierry Fermaux.

By the way, de Oliveira's currently at work on his 47th movie.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

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