One of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival's clear favorites, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, a stark tale about a small northern German town beset by strange happenings right before the beginning of World War I, took the Palme d'Or for best film. (Cannes 2009 winners list further below.)
“Happiness is very rare,” said Haneke upon accepting his prize. “This is one moment in my life in which I'm very happy, and so are you, I believe,” he added, speaking to his wife.
The White Ribbon also won the International Film Critics' FIPRESCI Prize for best film in the official competition. And it'll surely be Austria's submission for the 2010 best foreign-language film Academy Award.
Another festival favorite, Jacques Audiard's tough drama A Prophet, in which a young Arab man in a French prison is befriended by a Corsican mafioso, was given the Grand Prix – or runner-up award. The film and its young star, newcomer Tahar Rahim, will likely be two of the strongest contenders for the French Academy's 2010 César, while both A Prophet and The White Ribbon will just as likely be two of the top films in the running for the European Film Awards later this year.
The Cannes festival's third-place award, the Jury Prize, went to Andrea Arnold's teen-angst drama Fish Tank and, more surprisingly, to Park Chan-wook's vampire romance Thirst.
Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza's best director win for the violent cop thriller Kinatay was another surprise, as the film wasn't all that well received by critics. Veteran Alain Resnais, whose romantic fantasy Wild Grass earned numerous raves, Jane Campion (for Bright Star), Xavier Giannoli (for In the Beginning), Marco Bellocchio (for Vincere), and Pedro Almodóvar (for Broken Embraces) would have been five far more likely choices.
As it turned out, Almodóvar, Giannoli, Campion, and Bellocchio went home empty-handed, but Resnais did receive a special Lifetime Achievement award and a standing ovation from the crowd at the Grand Theatre Lumiere. Campion, for her part, will likely have better luck come Oscar 2010 time.
The festival's best actress was Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays a crazed grieving mother intent on torturing herself and her husband (Willem Dafoe) following the death of the couple's young son in Lars von Trier's much-discussed Antichrist, which mixes sexuality and nastiness, including a graphic scene featuring genital self-mutilation.
Antichrist was so controversial that it won the Ecumenical Jury's “anti-prize” for being “the most misogynist movie from the self-proclaimed biggest director in the world.” (Upon hearing of the anti-prize, festival director Thierry Fremaux remarked that it was a “ridiculous decision that borders on a call for censorship, [it is] scandalous coming from an 'ecumenical' jury which what is more is headed by a filmmaker [Radu Milhaileanu].”)
Thanking Dafoe and von Trier, Gainsbourg remarked that they “allowed me to live what I believe to be the strongest, most painful and most exciting experience of my whole life,” adding that her father, the late singer and actor Serge Gainsbourg who caused a stir in his day with several of his outrageous compositions, would have been “proud and shocked, I hope.”
Austrian-born TV performer Christoph Waltz was a surprise choice for best actor for his murderous Nazi colonel in Quentin Tarantino's generally panned comedy Inglourious Basterds, in which Jews led by Brad Pitt take their revenge on the Nazis. Tahar Rahim had been the critics' clear favorite for A Prophet.
Feng Mei won the screenplay award for Lou Ye's Spring Fever, about relationship problems – both homo or hetero – in today's China. Shot on the sly, the film will quite possibly get Ye in trouble – once again – after he returns to his home country. Not only is homosexuality taboo over there, but a couple of years ago Chinese authorities barred Ye from making films following the release of his politically charged drama Summer Palace. Ye's previous films had also run into problems with the Chinese powers-that-be.
Among the other Cannes festival winners at the various sidebars and competitions were:
- Best short Arena (above, top), directed by João Salaviza. Arena, the only Portuguese production in competition at the festival, tells the story of a young man under house arrest.
- Xavier Dolan's J'ai tué ma mère / I Killed My Mother (above, lower photo) won the Directors Fortnight best film prize. In this Canadian growing-pains tale, a 16-year-old gay man (played by the then 19-year-old Dolan) learns something about life all the while despising his mother's manipulative behavior and tacky taste in clothes.
- Nassim Amaouche's Adieu Gary / Farewell Gary, winner of the Critics' Week best film award, chronicles the lives of several inhabitants of a small industrial French town whose sole factory has been closed down. The film's title refers to Gary Cooper, as a local boy believes his father to be the long-dead Hollywood hero.
- Corneliu Porumboiu's Romanian drama Police, Adjective, winner of both the jury and the critics' awards for the Un Certain Regard sidebar, follows a police officer who refuses to arrest a young hashish “distributor.”
- Ken Loach's Looking for Eric was given the Ecumenical prize. In the well-received comedy written by Paul Laverty, a troubled postman finds a life coach in the figure of former soccer star Eric Cantona.
Several of the top 2009 Cannes winners had won awards at prior editions of the festival. Michael Haneke won the best director award in 2005 for Hidden and the Grand Prix in 2001 for The Piano Player; Andrea Arnold had won a previous Jury Prize for Red Road in 2006; and Park chan-wook won the Grand Prix for Old Boy in 2004.
This year's nine-person jury was led by Isabelle Huppert, who won the best actress award in Cannes for her work in Haneke's The Piano Player, and included no less than five actresses from various parts of the world. In addition to Huppert, there were Asia Argento, Shu Qi, Robin Wright Penn, and Sharmila Tagore.
Photos: Courtesy Festival de Cannes
2009 Cannes Film Festival Awards
2009 Cannes Film Festival: May 13-24
IN COMPETITION - FEATURE FILMS
Palme d'Or DAS WEISSE BAND (The White Ribbon) directed by Michael HANEKE
Grand Prix UN PROPHÈTE (A Prophet) directed by Jacques AUDIARD
Jury Prize (tie) FISH TANK directed by Andrea ARNOLD and BAK-JWI (Thirst) directed by PARK Chan-Wook
Best Director Brillante MENDOZA for KINATAY
Best Actor Christoph WALTZ in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS directed by Quentin TARANTINO
Best Actress Charlotte GAINSBOURG in ANTICHRIST directed by Lars von TRIER
Best Screenplay MEI Feng for CHUN FENG CHEN ZUI DE YE WAN (Spring Fever) directed by LOU Ye
Prix Vulcain: Artist-Technician Aitor BERENGUER, sound technician of the movie MAP OF THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO directed by Isabel COIXET
Lifetime achievement award for his work and his exceptional contribution to the history of cinema Alain RESNAIS
IN COMPETITION - SHORT FILMS
Palme d'Or ARENA directed by João SALAVIZA
Special Distinction THE SIX DOLLAR FIFTY MAN directed by Mark ALBISTON, Louis SUTHERLAND
CAMERA D'OR SAMSON AND DELILAH directed by Warwick THORNTON (Un Certain Regard)
Caméra d'Or - Special Distinction AJAMI directed by Scandar COPTI, Yaron SHANI (Directors Fortnight)
UN CERTAIN REGARD
Prix Un Certain Regard - Fondation Gan pour le Cinéma KYNODONTAS (Dogtooth) by Yorgos LANTHIMOS
Jury Prize POLITIST, ADJECTIV (Police, Adjective) by Corneliu PORUMBOIU
Special Prize Un Certain Regard (tie) KASI AZ GORBEHAYE IRANI KHABAR NADAREH (No One Knows About Persian Cats) by Bahman GHOBADI and LE PÈRE DE MES ENFANTS (Father of My Children) by Mia HANSEN-LØVE
First Cinéfondation Prize BÁBA by Zuzana Kirchnerová-Špidlová (FAMU, Czech Republic)
Second Cinéfondation Prize GOODBYE by Song Fang (Beijing Film Academy, China)
Third Cinéfondation Prize (tie) DIPLOMA by Yaelle Kayam (The Sam Spiegel Film & TV School, Israël) and NAMMAE UI JIP (Don't Step out of the House) directed by Jo Sung-hee (Korean Academy of Film Arts, South Korea)
FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) PRIZE
Competition: The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke, Austria-Germany-France
Un Certain Regard: Intermediar / Police, Adjective by Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania
Directors' Fortnight: Amreeka by Cherien Dabis, Canada-Kuwait-U.S.
Best Film: Looking for Eric by Ken Loach
Special Mention: The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke
Anti-Prize: Antichrist by Lars von Trier
CRITICS' WEEK AWARDS
Critics' Week Grand Prix
Adieu Gary (Farewell Gary) by Nassim Amaouche (France)
Lost Persons Area by Caroline Strubbe (Belgium / The Netherlands / Hungary)
ACID/CCAS Support Award
Sirta La Gal Ba (Whisper With The Wind) by Shahram Alidi (Iraq)
OFAJ/TV5MONDE (VERY) Young Critic Award
Sirta La Gal Ba (Whisper With The Wind) by Shahram Alidi (Iraq)
Canal+ Award for Best Short Film
Slitage (Seeds of the Fall) de Patrik Eklund (Sweden)
Kodak Discovery Award for Best Short Film
Logorama by François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy, Ludovic Houplain
Prize Regard Jeune
Sirta La Gal Ba (Whisper With The Wind) de Shahram Alidi (Iraq)
DIRECTORS FORTNIGHT AWARDS
Art Cinema Award: J'ai tué ma mère / I Killed My Mother by Xavier Dolan (Canada)
Special Mention: La Merditude des choses (The Misfortunates) by Felix van Groeningen (Belgium)
7e Prix Regards Jeunes 2009: J'ai tué ma mère / I Killed My Mother by Xavier Dolan (Canada)
SACD Prize: J'ai tué ma mère / I Killed My Mother by Xavier Dolan (Canada)
The Europa Cinemas Label: La Pivellina by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel (Austria)
French Short films prize: Montparnasse (France)
Photos: Courtesy Festival de Cannes
FEATURE FILM JURY
Isabelle HUPPERT, President (Actress - France)
Asia ARGENTO (Actress, Director, Screenwriter- Italy)
Nuri BILGE CEYLAN (Director, Screenwriter, Actor - Turkey)
Lee CHANG-DONG (Director, Writer, Screenwriter - South Korea)
James GRAY (Director, Screenwriter - United States)
Hanif KUREISHI (Writer, Screenwriter - United Kingdom)
Shu QI (Actress - Taiwan)
Sharmila TAGORE (Actress - India)
Robin WRIGHT PENN (Actress - United States)
CINEFONDATION AND SHORT FILMS JURY
John BOORMAN, President (Director, Writer, Producer - United Kingdom)
Bertrand BONELLO (Director - France)
Ferid BOUGHEDIR (Director - Tunisia)
Leonor SILVEIRA (Actress - Portugal)
ZHANG Ziyi (Actress - China)
UN CERTAIN REGARD JURY
Paolo SORRENTINO, President (Director, Screenwriter - Italy)
Uma DA CUNHA (Journalist - India)
Julie GAYET (Actress - France)
Piers HANDLING (Festival Toronto Director - Canada)
Marit KAPLA (Festival Göteborg Director - Sweden)
CAMERA D'OR JURY
Roschdy ZEM, President (Actor, Director - France)
Diane BARATIER (Director of Photography - France)
Olivier CHIAVASSA (Fédération des industries techniques du cinéma - France)
Sandrine RAY (Director - France)
Charles TESSON (Critic press - France)
Edouard WAINTROP (Festival Fribourg Director - Swiss)
Cannes Film Festival website
Charlotte Gainsbourg as a bereaved mother in Antichrist.
Penélope Cruz, Almodóvar's diva in Broken Embraces.
Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne in Bright Star.
Katie Jarvis as an aimless teenager in Fish Tank.
Giovanna Mezzogiorno as Benito Mussolini's secret mistress Ida Dalser in Vincere.
Any of those listed for best film, in addition to:
Marco Bellocchio's Vincere (co-written by Bellocchio and Daniela Ceselli), about how Benito Mussolini mistreated his first wife (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and son while millions of Italians thought he was just the greatest guy around.
Ken Loach's Looking for Eric (written by Paul Laverty), about a postman who gets soccer player Eric Cantona to become his life coach.
Writer-director Xavier Giannoli's In the Beginning, in which a con man gets a small town to build a highway.
Palme d'Or, Grand Prix & Special Jury Prize
Alain Resnais' romantic fantasy Wild Grass (adapted by Alex Reval and Laurent Herbiet from Christian Gaillys novel), about a man who becomes intrigued by a younger woman
Jacques Audiard's tough prison drama A Prophet (written by Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Dafri, and Nicolas Peufaillit)
Writer-director Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, about a northern German community enmeshed in a series of nasty events right before the beginning of World War I
Writer-director Jane Campion's Bright Star, about the doomed love affair between British poet John Keats and his neighbor, Fanny Brawne
Pedro Almodóvar for Broken Embraces
Jacques Audiard for A Prophet
Jane Campion for Bright Star
Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon
Alain Resnais for Wild Grass
Tahar Rahim as a young man behind bars in A Prophet.
Ben Whishaw as John Keats in Bright Star.
André Dussollier as the elderly hero in Wild Grass.
François Cluzet as a con man in In the Beginning.