An Italian Wins in London: Happiful I am very much!
The 11th European Film Awards saw the event travel again - from Berlin, seat of the European Film Academy, to London's Old Vic Theatre where it brought together the likes of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar and actor Javier Bardem, British director Ken Loach, his German colleague Tom Tykwer, and many more. Moderated by English comedian Mel Smith and French actress Carole Bouquet, the ceremony unexpectedly took on a distinctly Italian flavour with Roberto Benigni storming onstage to accept the award for European Actor 1998. Presented by French actress Anouk Aimée and her English colleague David Suchet, the Italian received the award for his tragicomedy LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. Laughing and hugging the presenters, he exclaimed «I am amusing myself very much» and expressed his happiness by suggesting to the audience: «Why don't we all sleep together tonight?», taking the audience by storm and leaving Mel Smith with little to say other than: «What an extraordinarily quiet and introverted man!»
Receiving the European Critic's Award - Prix FIPRESCI from British actor Jeremy Irons and Derek Malcolm of FIPRESCI (the international federation of film critics), the next award recipient was Goran Paskaljevic. Honoured for his film THE POWDER KEG, he pointed out that although he wasn't Benigni, he was still very happy.
Further awards went to Peter Howitt, European Screenwriter for SLIDING DOORS, Adrian Biddle, European Cinematographer for THE BUTCHER BOY, and Claudio Pazienza, European Documentary Award - Prix ARTE, as well as the film THE TRUMAN SHOW which received the Screen International Award for a non-European film.
Another highlight came when Italian actress Asia Argento and her French colleague Guillaume Canet presented the award European Actress 1998. The prize went to Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier for THE DREAM LIFE OF ANGELS and the two young actresses brought to the stage a natural happiness.
The first honorary award of the evening went to Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård for AMISTAD and GOOD WILL HUNTING. On stage to present the award were Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta and English actor Jason Flemyng. Skarsgård thanked the Academy and said that although this kind of award had the taste of the end of a career to it he'd try to continue living and working for a while.
This was also the first time the European Film Academy presented an award for best short film. Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros and her Greek colleague Stelios Mainas announced that the award went to the film UN JOUR by Marie Pacou from France.
The EFA's newcomer prize, the European Discovery - Fassbinder Award, went ex aequo to Thomas Vinterberg for THE CELEBRATION and to Erick Zonca for THE DREAM LIFE OF ANGELS. The French director said he was «very happy to share this award» with the Danish film while his Danish colleague thanked the Dogma 95 group.
Another highlight came with the presentation of the European Film Academy Special Achievement Award to Jeremy Irons. He received the honour from the hands of Austrian actress Senta Berger and her Italian colleague Enrico LoVerso and explained that he worked for «that magic sound when a group of people work well together, a sort of hum.»
The evening reached its climax with Roberto Benigni receiving another award, European Film 1998 for his tragicomedy LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. Seeing him bounce around the stage, kissing and hugging everybody and happily shouting obscenities which nobody seemed to mind left you wishing you were at least slightly more Italian. And happiful.