All That Jazz is my favourite Palme d'Or winner, awarded 35 years ago. Not only that, it's my favourite film from 1979. Actually, if you really want to know, Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical musical fantasy is my favourite film of any year, period, and it's remarkable how easily I can come to that decision whenever anybody asks what my favourite movie is considering I have the Libra mentality of terrible indecisiveness.
Looking over the list of subsequent Cannes winners and it’s a remarkably odd choice. Even when juries have given the top prize to an American film, it has never been one quite so big. It's not only a relatively big-budget America studio film, but it had already been a hit with Oscar voters several months earlier than the 1980 Cannes festival at which it won (tying with Kurosawa’s Kagemusha). Unlike No Country for Old Men – directed by this year’s Cannes jury presidents the Coen Brothers – which was apparently the victim of a jury belief that it did not need the prestige of a Palme d’Or, Kirk Douglas’ jury apparently had no qualms with awarding a four-time Oscar and two-time BAFTA winner with the most prestigious prize in international festival cinema. In a strange coincidence, Fosse’s 1979 Oscar Best Picture competitor, Apocalypse Now, had won the Palme d’Or a year earlier. It was the sort of occurrence that would never happen these days and even crazier to imagine something so razzling and dazzling taking the top prize from a competition that included names like Hal Ashby, Samuel Fuller, Bruce Beresford, Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Walter Hill and the aforementioned Kurosawa.
Mr. Bob Fosse sent me this telegram. I am very happy and proud to share the Golden Palm with Mr. Kurosawa. I thank Roy Scheider for his collaboration in the film. And I regret not having been able to return myself, to express my joy and my emotion."