Right Now, Wrong Then (2011): Hong Sang-soo’s Romantic Comedy Wins Top Locarno Fest Award

Right Now, Wrong Then, a bittersweet romantic comedy by Hong Sang-soo, has taken the coveted Golden Leopard prize at the 68th edition of the 2015 Locarno Film Fest.

Awarded the prize by an International Competition jury that included German thesp Udo Kier and U.S. helmer Jerry Schatzberg, the prolific South Korean auteur competed against new works from Chantal Akerman, Andrzei Zulawski, and Athina Rachel Tsangari.

Hong’s leading man Jung Jae-young also took Best Actor honors for the film, a structurally playful meditation on social graces and missed chances, in which the same romantic scenario plays out twice with markedly different results.

The win gives the low-key pic a healthy profile boost as it heads into further fest showings in Toronto and New York.

It’s not the first Locarno win for Hong, who won the Best Director award two years ago for “Our Sunhi.”

This year, the Best Director prize went to Polish veteran Zulawski for “Cosmos,” his first feature film in 15 years, adapted from the surreal novel by Witold Grombowicz.

The Special Jury Prize, the runner-up gong to the Golden Leopard, was presented to Israeli visual artist turned filmmaker Avishai Sivan for his third feature “Tikkun.” The religious drama, about an Orthodox academic undergoing a spiritual crisis, unspooled at last month’s Jerusalem Film Fest.  It received an additional citation from the jury for Shai Goldman’s black-and-white cinematography.

Rounding out the jury awards in the main competition was Japanese director Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s “Happy Hour”: It took a joint Best Actress award for ensemble players Tanaka Sachie, Kikuchi Hazuki, Mihara Maiko and Kawamura Rira, with a special mention for its script.

The film, centered on a quartet of female friends cast adrift when one of them divorces, runs over five hours in length. Following last year’s Golden Leopard win for Lav Diaz’s even longer “From What Is Before,” the Locarno competition must rank among the fest circuit’s most accommodating toward super-sized works.

From the more populist-inclined Piazza Grande program — the selections of which are screened nightly in Locarno’s 8,000-seat open-air showcase venue — the audience-voted UBS Public Prize went to German post-Holocaust thriller “The People vs. Fritz Bauer.” Following the eponymous state attorney’s attempt to bring Auschwitz war criminals to trial. Variety critics reached a different conclusion, the pic was dismissed by Debruge as a “teleplay-style treatment of a still-touchy subject.”

Summertime: Lesbian Love Story

The Piazza Grande Award to French helmer Catherine Corsini for “Summertime,” a 1970s-set lesbian love story starring Cecile de France and Izia Higelin. The picture hits French screens on August 19.

In the fest’s Cinema of the Present sidebar, devoted to first and second-time filmmakers, a jury presided over by filmmaker Julio Bressane handed the top prize to Bangalore-based novelist-turned-helmer Raam Reddy for his debut feature “Thithi,” a drama about three generations of sons after the death of the family patriarch. Reddy also received the Swatch Award for Best First Feature, determined by a separate jury of film critics and scholars.