Cannes jury gives its heart to works of graphic darkness


THE 62ND Festival de Cannes was dominated by films addressing dark, heavy themes with graphic candour that challenged viewers not to look away. Many of those productions were rewarded when jury president Isabelle Huppert announced the winners at the closing ceremony in the Festival Palais last night.

The coveted Palme d’Or went to Austrian director Michael Haneke for his austere but powerful The White Ribbon, which addresses repression and cruelty among a small Protestant community in northern Germany in the months before the first World War.

The runner-up award, the Grand Prix du Jury, was given to French director Jacques Audiard for his tough, immensely stylish A Prophet. In observing a 19-year-old Frenchman of North African origin over a six-year sentence, it depicts the French prison system as a breeding ground for young criminals rather than a source of rehabilitation.

For the first time in Cannes history, this year’s jury had a majority of women, five out of nine members, and in a decision certain to be controversial, they gave the best director award to Filipino filmmaker Brilliante Mendoza for Kinatay(Slaughter). It features an extended, repellent sequence in which a Manila prostitute is abducted, beaten, raped, murdered and dismembered.

The jury honoured the festival’s other most provocative entry, Lars von Trier’s risibly pretentious Antichrist, by giving the best actress award to Charlotte Gainsbourg. In the most startling of several scenes that resort to shock tactics, she engages in genital mutilation with the aid of gruesome special effects.

The best actor award was presented to Austrian actor Christoph Waltz for his richly entertaining portrayal of a slyly charming but utterly ruthless SS colonel in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. One of the most critically divisive movies at Cannes, it was attacked for trivialising the war through its far-fetched storyline of Jewish US soldiers (their leader played by Brad Pitt) on a mission to scalp 100 Nazis each.

The award for best screenplay went to director Lou Ye for Spring Fever, which dares to depict the relationships – heterosexual, gay and bisexual – of five young characters, three men and two women, in present-day Nanjing. Its sexual explicitness ensures that the film has no prospects of a cinema release in China.

The minor award, the Prix du Jury, was shared between two films. One, Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, is set in a grim English flats complex where an aggressive 15-year-old girl (Katie Jarvis) is drawn towards her mother’s seductive Irish lover (Killarney-raised actor Michael Fassbender). The other, South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, blends copious blood-letting with twisted humour in its tale of a missionary priest turned into a vampire.

In marked contrast to all these excesses over the past 12 days was Wild Grass(Les Herbes Folles), a melodrama made in classical style by veteran French director Alain Resnais (87). He received a sustained standing ovation from the Cannes audience last night when presented with an award for his remarkable body of work.

Among the Cannes entries that failed to win prizes were Jane Campion’s Bright Star, set over the last three years in the life of poet John Keats; Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces, starring Penélope Cruz; Ang Lee’s evocation of the landmark 1969 rock festival in Taking Woodstock; and Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric, featuring and devised in collaboration with former football star Eric Cantona.

The annual award presented by an ecumenical jury at the festival was given to Loach for that film. In an unprecedented decision, that jury gave an “anti-award” to Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, describing it as “the most misogynist movie from the self-proclaimed biggest director in the world.”

Cannes festival director Thierry Frémaux responded that this was a “ridiculous decision that borders on a call for censorship” and that it was “scandalous coming from an ‘ecumenical’ jury”.


PALME D’OR- The White Ribbon, directed by Austrian Michael Haneke. A small village is rocked by a series of mysterious and cruel crimes. A group of young children are among the suspects.

GRAND PRIX (runner-up)- A Prophetdirected by France’s Jacques Audiard.

SPECIAL CAREER PRIZE- Veteran French director Alain Resnais. This year he presented Wild Grass.

BEST ACTOR- Austrian Christoph Waltz for his role as a Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

BEST ACTRESS- Charlotte Gainsbourg for Antichrist,directed by Denmark’s Lars Von Trier.

BEST DIRECTOR- Kinatay, directed by Filipino Brillante Mendoza. Peping, a criminology student, joins his friend on a mission to earn some cash but regrets his decision as events turn sour.

BEST SCREENPLAY- Mei Feng for his script on Spring Fever, directed by China’s Lou Ye.

JURY PRIZE (shared)- Fish Tankdirected by Britain’s Andrea Arnold, and Thirstdirected by South Korean Park Chan-Wook.

CAMERA D’OR (for debut film)- Samson and Delilahdirected by Australia’s Warwick Thornton.

BEST SHORT FILM- Arenadirected by Portuguese director Joao Salaviza. – (Reuters)