VALLETTA, Malta — As predicted, it was a very big night for “Amour” at the European Film Awards, as Michael Haneke’s universally revered Palme d’Or winner swept the four top awards at the ceremony: European Film of the Year and Director of the Year, plus the two acting prizes for its octogenarian leads Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.
Neither of the actors, sadly, were in attendance (Riva, stricken with flu, is unable to travel), but Haneke was — “jubilant” could never be the appropriate word to describe the solemn Austrian formalist’s reaction to anything, but he looked close to overcome as he accept the night’s final award, limiting his acceptance speech to a simple “thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Haneke didn’t have it all his own way, losing the screenwriting prize to “The Hunt,” while “Amour” cinematographer Darius Khondji made way for “Shame” DP Sean Bobbitt. Still, this was a formidable sweep, underlining the Austrian Oscar submission’s status as 2012’s premier arthouse attraction. The EFAs may not exert much influence across the pond, but this coup can only build on the film’s enviable prestige as it heads into the US precursor jungle — with Sony Classics aiming for greater things than a mere Best Foreign Language Film nod.
Despite a high-quality slate of nominees that included such outstanding films as “Barbara” and “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” as well as the populist juggernaut that is “The Intouchables,” not much else got a look-in. While “The Hunt” wrestled one major award from “Amour,” the Brits ruled the roost in the technical categories, with “Shame” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” each taking a pair: Cinematography and Editing for the former, and Production Design and Composer for the latter. (If you’re wondering why these 2011 releases were competing this year, consider the eligibility date complications involved in a ceremony that covers an entire continent.)
The ceremony itself was an enjoyably mixed bag, with a rowdy Maltese house band complementing some spirited Euro-Borscht belt schtick from our amiable emcee, German comedienne Anke Engelke. Helen Mirren was on cheeky form accepting her honorary award, thanking the European Film Academy for “the great honour of recognizing that I’m a fucking whore,” while the grace note of the night was a wry, touching acceptance speech by Lifetime Achievement Award winner Bernardo Bertolucci, whose tribute was accompanied by a truly gorgeous montage of his life’s work. Take note, Oscar directors.
I’ll have more tomorrow, but the after-party calls. Full list of winners below:
European Film of the Year: “Amour”
European Director of the Year: Michael Haneke, “Amour”
European Actress of the Year: Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”
European Actor of the Year: Jean-Louis Trintignant, “Amour”
European Screenwriter of the Year: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm, “The Hunt”
European Editor of the Year: Joe Walker, “Shame”
European Composer of the Year: Alberto Iglesias, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
European Production Designer of the Year: Maria Djurkovic, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
European Documentary of the Year: “Winter Nomads”
European Animated Feature of the Year: “Alois Nebel”
European Short Film of the Year: “Superman, Spiderman or Batman”
Young Audience Award: “Kauwboy”
Lifetime Achievement Award: Bernardo Bertolucci
Prix Eurimages: Helena Danielsson (producer)