It was a night of old favorites at the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival as a host of familiar faces won the top awards. The familiarity started at the very top as Michael Haneke’s Amour, the per-ordained favorite of the festival, lived up to its billing by winning the prestigious Palme d’Or on Sunday. Amour, which tells the story of an elderly couple facing the end of their marriage after one of them suffers a debilitating stroke, was widely considered the favorite to win the prize after it was greeted with near-universal acclaim last week, with many U.S. critics dubbing the film the Austrian auteur’s warmest and most-accessible film to date.
Though some at pegged French filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, starring Marion Cotillard, or Leo Carax’s bizarre Holy Motors as likely winners, in the end it was no surprise at all. Haneke, a Cannes mainstay and one of the most respected voices in world cinema, has premiered almost all of his movies here – winning the Grand Prix (second place) for The Piano Teacher in 2002, Best Director for the magnificent Caché in 2005, and the Palm d’Or for his previous film, 2009′s The White Ribbon, a stark black-and-white shot study on the rise of fascism in a German town in pre-World War I. His Palm d’Or wins for back-to-back films makes him only the second filmmaker to achieve this feat; the first being Danish filmmaker Billy August who won first won the award in 1987 for the Oscar-winning immigrant drama Pelle the Conqueror, and then for his follow-up, the Ingmar Bergman-penned The Best Intentions, in 1992.
Knowing Haneke’s reputation among critics, expect Amour, which will be released in the U.S. this fall by Sony Picture Classics, to figure prominently on a ton of end-of-year top 10 lists.
Other awards of the night were also handed out to old favorites at the festival. The Grand Prix (second place) was awarded to Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone’s polarizing Reality, about a poor man who becomes obsessed with getting on a reality TV show. Garrone’s previous film, Gomorra also won the Grand Prix in 2008. Third place (Prix du Jury) was awarded to British filmmaker Ken Loach’s The Angels Share who won the Palm d’Or in 2006 for The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
In the acting categories, Danish actor Mads Mikkelson (Casino Royale) was awarded Best Actor for his acclaimed performance as a kindergarten teacher accused of child abuse in The Hunt while teenagers Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan were jointly awarded the Best Actress prize for their performances in Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills. Mungiu, a Palm d’Or winner in 2007 for his masterpiece 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days was also awarded the Best Screenplay prize. Best Director on the other hand, was handed to previous Jury Prize winner, Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas’ latest film Post Tenebras Lux.
While it was foreign films that ruled at the end of the day at the festival, many American and English-language films also made their debuts at the festival and will likely make a stronger impact than the winners when they debut stateside in the fall as many previous in-competition entries such as Drive, L.A. Confidential, No Country for Old Men, Babel, Inglorious Basterds, A History of Violence, Mystic River, Moulin Rouge and Shrek became awards season staples despite not making much of an impact on Cannes juries. Therfore the American films at this year’s festival namely David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis starring Robert Pattinson, Mud, Jeff Nichols’ follow-up to Take Shelter starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, Walter Salles’ adaptation of On the Road, John Hillcoat’s action-heavy Lawless featuring Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf, Andrew Dominik’s Killing them Softly starring Brad Pitt, and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom are likely all resting easy at the bonus of being a Cannes in-competition entry. I’m not including Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy (starring Zack Efron, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey) on the list above because based on the reviews, that one seems to be an all-out disaster.
However, the American film that’s likely to benefit most from the Cannes experience will be debutant filmmaker Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, which after its Grand Jury Prize win at Sundance in January, won the Camera d’Or (Best Debut Filmmaker) prize here at Cannes even though it wasn’t playing in-competition. A rapturous reception awaits.
LIST OF WINNERS:
Palme d’Or: Amour – Michael Haneke
Grand Prix: Reality – Matteo Garrone
Prix du Jury: The Angels’ Share – Ken Loach
Prix de la Mise en Scene (Best Director): Carlos Reygadas for Post Tenebras Lux
Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay): Beyond the Hills – Cristian Mungiu
Camera d’Or (Best First Feature): Beasts of the Southern Wild – Benh Zeitlin
Prix d’interpretation masculine (Best Actor): Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt
Prix d’interpretation feminine (Best Actress): Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur for Beyond the Hills
Palme d’Or, Short Film: Silence (Sessis-Be Deng) – L. Rezan Yesilbas