The Cannes Film Festival is a wrap, and its highest accolade, the Palme d’Or, was granted to Michael Haneke’s “Amour” on Sunday.
This was Haneke's second time winning the Palme, just three years after his success with “The White Ribbon." Sunday's honor makes him only the sixth filmmaker to have triumphed twice in the festival’s 65-year history. (Other repeat winners include Francis Coppola and the Dardennes brothers.)
Haneke's “Amour” is a tender, compassionate film about an elderly married couple – played by veteran French actors Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva – confronting the impact of terminal illness.
Very different from “The White Ribbon," this is, in Haneke’s words, “a simple film," set almost entirely within the confines of the couple’s apartment. But it struck a deep chord with the jury and with international critics, who had overwhelmingly tipped the Palme d’Or.
Yet if that consensus highlighted the intelligence and sensitivity of “Amour," it also testified to the generally lackluster quality of this year’s Competition. Several of the 22 contenders had passionate fans, but the word “masterpiece” was rarely used over the course of the 12-day festival.
As is customary at Cannes, the other awards were spread liberally among the runners-up. The second prize, the “Grand Prix," went to Italian filmmaker and jury head Nanni Moretti's fellow countryman Matteo Garrone for “Reality" (though many had counted this a disappointing follow-up to his debut “Gomorrah").
British filmmaker Ken Loach won the Jury Prize for “The Angels’ Share," while Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas was a surprise choice for best director for his boldly avant-garde “Post Tenebras Lux."
Cannes’ most controversial film (and hottest ticket), “Holy Motors” by Leos Carax, was entirely ignored by the jury. A surreal take on identity and convention featuring Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue and protean French actor Denis Lavant in 11 roles, this was both an audaciously imaginative effort and a decidedly mixed bag. Fans of the cult director should have the chance to catch it in the States though, as it was picked up for release by indie outfit Indomina.
The jury also snubbed all six of the North American titles in contention, including Lee Daniels’ sensationally lurid crime melodrama “The Paperboy” (immediately notorious for the scene in which Nicole Kidman peed on Zac Efron); the disappointing gangster drama “Lawless”; Wes Anderson’s opening night charmer “Moonrise Kingdom”; Andrew Dominik’s outstanding crime thriller “Killing Them Softly”; and Walter Salles’ generally liked, but not loved, “On the Road."
Kristen Stewart did generate plenty of good buzz for her uninhibited performance as Marylou in the latter, but “Twilight” beau Robert Pattinson got a more mixed reception for his portrait of a Wall Street master of the universe unraveling in David Cronenberg’s brilliant, icy and largely misunderstood satire, “Cosmopolis."
There was consolation for the U.S. in the Competition’s sidebar event, Un Certain Regard, where Benh Zeitlin’s independent debut feature “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was ecstatically received. Tim Roth’s jury gave Zeitlin its top award, and we can see it Stateside in select theaters on June 27.
As for “Amour," look for that toward the end of the year, when Hollywood’s own awards season steps into gear.
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Cannot wait to see it.
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