Violence Reaps Rewards at Cannes Festival

Manila Bulletin, May 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Violence Reaps Rewards at Cannes Festival


(NYT) CANNES, France -- "The White Ribbon," a meticulous examination of patriarchal domination, won the Palme d'Or at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival on Sunday. Directed by the Austrian-born Michael Haneke and shot in black and white, the much-admired film -- a foundation story about National Socialism set in a rural pre-World War I German community -- turns on a series of violent events that appear to be the work of some children. In 2001 Haneke won the Grand Prix (effectively second place) for his harrowing drama "The Piano Teacher," which starred Isabelle Huppert, president of this year's competition jury. The Grand Prix, also announced Sunday, went to "A Prophet," a pitch-perfect film from the French director Jacques Audiard about a young inmate who becomes a master criminal during a prison stretch. The film was the critical favorite throughout the festival, and Audiard received a standing ovation from the audience when he mounted the stage. Far more surprising was the Jury Prize (third place), which was split between "Fish Tank," a slice of Brit-grit realism from Andrea Arnold, and the neo-exploitation vampire flick "Thirst," from the South Korean director Park Chan-wook. Both were booed by the press watching the show via live broadcast. The director Terry Gilliam, here with the noncompetition film "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," delivered some funny onstage shtick by pretending to accept the directing prize, which he was meant to bestow. ("Terry, you don't receive, you give," the host explained, promising that Gilliam could have something next year if he didn't create a scandal.) The actual winner of the director award was Brillante Mendoza, from the Philippines, whose grisly, widely loathed shocker, "Kinatay" ("Slaughter"), hinges on a man who doesn't prevent a murder. The screenwriting award went to Mei Feng for "Spring Fever," a rather baggy if underappreciated drama about young Chinese malaise. Huppert handed the prize for best actress to Charlotte Gainsbourg, who delivers a wild, fearless performance as a grieving mother in "Antichrist," an English-language film from the Danish director Lars von Trier. It's easy to imagine that Huppert and her fellow juror, the actress Asia Argento, both ferocious screen performers, were impressed with the intensity of Gainsbourg's performance, which involves a fair amount of nudity and some frantic (and graphic) backwoods masturbation. The best-actor award for the Austrian Christoph Waltz, who plays a Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino's World War II movie, "Inglourious Basterds," made everyone happy. Speaking in French, English and German, Waltz called the film an "unbelievable experience," thanked his co-star Brad Pitt, along with the creator of Waltz's "unique and inimitable" character, Colonel Landa. His voice colored with emotion, he addressed Tarantino directly: "You gave me my vocation back." Huppert presented the director Alain Resnais -- who turns 87 next month -- with a "lifetime achievement award for his work and his exceptional contribution to the history of cinema." He should have won something as well for his dazzling competition entry, "Wild Grass." Wearing sunglasses (bright lights bother him), a dark suit, a red shirt and a magnificent swirl of white hair, Resnais took the stage and was greeted with a sustained standing ovation. He expressed his gratitude to the jury and the festival and asked his cast to stand and receive applause before he was cut short by the music. …

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Violence Reaps Rewards at Cannes Festival
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