The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke’s fascism parable, scoops the top prize, but there’s success for Britain’s Andrea Arnold, as well as festival hot potatoes Inglourious Basterds and Antichrist.
There was success for Britain as the 62nd Cannes film festival rolled up its red carpet this evening. Andrea Arnold’s council estate drama Fish Tank walked away with the Jury prize, shared with Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, an erotic thriller about a priest who is turned into a vampire after a botched medical experiment. Both directors have had past form at the festival: Arnold’s Red Road, a CCTV thriller, walked away with the same gong in 2006, while Chan-Wook won the Grand Prix in 2003 for Old Boy.
The recipient of that award this year was no surprise: A Prophet, Jacques Audiard’s hotly-tipped prison drama. The best director prize was more of a surprise: Brillante Mendoza, a Filipino director whose hitman drama Kinatay created more buzz prior to the festival than during it.
But the biggest award of the festival, the Palme d’Or, went to Michael Haneke’s chilly black-and-white parable of fascism set in a small German town on the eve of the first world war. Though much acclaimed by critics, there had been noises it would fall at the last hurdle on account of Haneke’s close association with jury president Isabelle Huppert, who has starred in two of his most recent films. But accusations of favouritism were evidently felt to be less pressing than rewarding the film’s clinical brilliance, and a director who many feel was unfairly passed over for the top prize in 2005, with fraught thriller Hidden.
There were awards, too, for two of the most contentious movies on the Croisette. Charlotte Gainsbourg won best actress for her extraordinary performance as a grieving parent in Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist – the scene in which she performs a clitoridectomy on herself was for many the enduring image of the festival this year.
Christoph Waltz, an Austrian actor who has toiled away for years on soap operas in Germany (doctors a speciality) was a shock choice for best actor as sadistic SS “Jew hunter” Colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Though many agreed that he stole the show from Brad Pitt and Mike Myers, it will no doubt ruffle feathers that Tarantino’s film, this year’s most high-profile disappointment, has been garlanded with any major award.
There were no gongs for previous winners Ken Loach, whose Cantona fantasy Looking for Eric proved popular with the crowds, nor Ang Lee, whose Taking Woodstock was more underwhelming. Controversial love triangle drama Spring Fever, by the Chinese director Lou Ye, left empty-handed, as did Jane Campion’s Bright Star, a chronicle of the relationship between poet John Keats and his muse Fanny Brawne.
But one Australian did leave with an award: Warwick Thornton won the Camera d’Or with his tragic Aboriginal love story Samson and Delilah.
Yesterday saw the announcement of the awards in the Un Certain Regard category – in what was commonly perceived to be an exceptional year for the festival sidebar. Norwegian drama Dogtooth won the top gong, while the Jury prize was won by Police, Adjective. Two special jury prizes were also awarded this year, to No One Knows About Persian Cats and Father of My Children.
Alain Resnais, the French new wave veteran who at 86 competed with a new film, Wild Grass, was rewarded an Exceptional prize – one of the few ever dolled out in the history of the festival.
DAS WEISSE BAND (THE WHITE RIBBON) directed by Michael HANEKE
UN PROPHÈTE (A PROPHET) directed by Jacques AUDIARD
Award for Best Director
Brillante MENDOZA for KINATAY
Award for Best Screenplay
LOU Ye for CHUN FENG CHEN ZUI DE YE WAN (Spring Fever)
Award for Best Actress
Charlotte GAINSBOURG in ANTICHRIST directed by Lars VON TRIER
Award for Best Actor
Christoph WALTZ in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS directed by Quentin TARANTINO
Jury Prize Ex-aequo
FISH TANK directed by Andrea ARNOLD
BAK-JWI (THIRST) directed by PARK Chan-Wook
Vulcain Prize for an artist technician, awarded by the C.S.T.
MAP OF THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO directed by Isabel COIXET
Lifetime achievement award for his work
LES HERBES FOLLES (WILD GRASS) directed by Alain RESNAIS
Palme d’Or – Short Film
ARENA directed by João SALAVIZA
Short Film Special Distinction
THE SIX DOLLAR FIFTY MAN directed by Louis SUTHERLAND