By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist May 27, 2012 at 2:11PM
On a rainy evening in the south of France, Nanni Moretti and rest of the Cannes Film Festival jury gathered at the Lumiere theater for a star-studded ceremony to hand out the awards for this year's fest. And there were some big surprises in store.
But before we get to those, the no-brainer winner for the Palme d'Or was Michael Haneke's "Amour." Already a festival regular, who won the prize for his last film "The White Ribbon," unlike his previous much more divisive pictures, this one was almost universally, well, loved. Anchored by two powerful performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, this punishing tale about an elderly couple facing death straight in the face had a heart and humanity that Haneke has never quite shown before. It's a well-deserved win, and one that most can agree on (read our review here). Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film earlier this year and will release it some time in 2012, presumably the fall. Haneke now joins the elite group of filmmakers who have won two Palme d'Ors. It includes: Francis Ford Coppola, Alf Sjöberg, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Shohei Imamura, Emir Kusturica and Danish director Bille August. As for the rest of the films awarded prizes?
Taking the Grand Prix (with a chorus of boos apparently being heard after it was announced), was Matteo Garrone's rather limp "Reality." The film about a man who becomes obsessed with appearing on the Italian version of "Big Brother" wasn't met with much regard on the Croisette, but Oscilloscope Laboratories ,who recently acquired the film, are likely happy to have another marketing angle to use on the pic. Also controversial was Carlos Reygadas winning Best Director for "Post Tenebras Lux." Though highly anticipated, the film disappointed many -- including us -- and Reygadas winning here over a handful of much more deserving helmers is a bit of a shock.
Speaking of shocks, the Best Actress winner didn't go to any names that were highly tipped, including Riva or Marion Cotillard for "Rust & Bone," but instead went to the two young leads in Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills" – Cosmina Straten and Cristina Flutur. The pair carried the slow moving, but no less affecting tale of two close friends who find their relationship tested by the orthodox faith one of them has turned to. While not as well received, the film did have its champions (see our review) and the actresses certainly delivered some great work. Mungiu's film also took home the award for Best Screenplay as well, making the picture the only mulitple award winner at the fest.
One film that many thought had a chance at the Palme d'Or, Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt," snagged a Best Actor prize for Mads Mikkelsen. Even with those who couldn't roll with the film (including this writer, who walked out), it's undeniable that he was excellent in the part. Rounding things out: Ken Loach's slight "The Angels' Share" took the jury prize while Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" continues to roll hard, earning the Camera d'Or for first film.
Palme d'Or: Michael Haneke "Amour"
Grand Prix: Matteo Garrone "Reality"
Best Actress (tie): Cosmina Straten & Cristina Flutur, "Beyond the Hills"
Best Actor: Mads Mikkelsen "The Hunt"
Best Director: Carlos Reygadas "Post Tenebras Lux"
Cannes Prix De Scenario (screenplay): Cristian Mungiu "Beyond the Hills"
Jury Prize: Ken Loach "The Angels' Share"
Caméra d'or: Benh Zeitlin "Beasts of the Southern Wild"