The Cannes Film Festival came to a rainy close with an idiosyncratic set of award winners --which as usual had more to do with the composition of the jury than what critics and media had to say during the ten-day festival on the Cote d'Azur. Several of these winners will be released stateside and submitted for foreign Oscar contention.
The sole American winner was, unusually, a Sundance import placed in Un Certain Regard, which won the Camera D'Or for first-time director, Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Fox Searchlight, who bought Zeitlin his first tuxedo, will push the magical New Orleans delta water-adventure for year-end awards. Many thought the film deserved a spot in the main competition, but Searchlight was happy going for the smaller but more likely win.
As expected, Michael Haneke's deceptively simple, direct and hugely moving France/Austria co-production "Amour" won the Palme d'Or, ushering him into the ranks of two-time winners including Francis Ford Coppola, the Dardennes and Bille August. He also won for his last film in 2009, "White Ribbon," which was nominated for two Oscars, for cinematography and foreign film. Austria will likely submit "Amour" for the foreign Oscar.
Jury president Nanni Moretti made a point of praising the performances of veteran leads Emmanuelle Riva ("Hiroshima On Amour") and Jean Louis Trintignant ("A Man and a Woman"). Sony Pictures Classics is handling the film stateside and will push for more than just foreign consideration.
The jury's acting prizes went to surprise winners Mads Mikkelsen, who gives a lovely, sensitive performance as a mild, passive teacher wrongly accused of pedophila in Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" (which lacks a U.S. distributor) and the non-pro Romanian actresses of Cristian Mingiu's "Beyond the Hills," Comina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, who endured long, cold takes while making the picture in sub-zero conditions. Two French actresses, Riva and "Rust & Bone" star Marion Cotillard, were the front-runners. Best Actress was presented by Alec Baldwin, who has been filming a Cannes movie on the Croisette with director James Toback.
Mungiu also won the screenplay prize. IFC, which also released his Palme d'Or-winning 2007 drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days," is handling the likely Romanian Oscar submission stateside.
The Italian jury president may have had a hand in another surprise award, for fellow countryman Matteo Gorrone, who won the Grand Prix for "Reality," a film that received a mixed reaction from critics. He had won the same prize for "Gomorrah," in 2008.
The Cannes mise-en-scene award went to Mexican director Carlos Reygadas' "Post Tenebras Lux," which drew divisive critical reaction. Some also wondered why the Cannes Festival included in the Competition Brit Ken Loach's Prix de Jury-winner "Angel's Share," which was picked up during the Fest by IFC/Sundance Selects. Obviously this jury considered them worthy. "Wow," Loach said as he accepted his prize, thanking Cannes for being so generous over the years--he has been nominated for the Palme d'Or eleven times.
The Cinefondation's short film prize went to "Sessiz-Be Deng" by Turkish director L Rezan Yesilbas.
Among the films that came up empty-handed were literary adaptations from Walter Salles ("On the Road," starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart and last year's best actress winner, Kirsten Dunst) and David Cronenberg ("Cosmopolis," a brainy dystopian meditation starring Stewart pal Rob Pattinson); Jacques Audiard's stark survivor story "Rust & Bone," starring Marion Cotillard; Leos Carax's wild and crazy "Holy Motors"; and Wes Anderson's popular romantic opener "Moonrise Kingdom," which opened well stateside this weekend, following the "Midnight in Paris" playbook. (Our video interview with Anderson is here.)
Not expected to be in the running were two gangster pics from The Weinstein Co, rural Prohibition gangster movie "Lawless," starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, and politicized urban thriller "Killing Them Softly," starring Brad Pitt as a ruthless hitman. That may be why Harvey Weinstein made a well-received press presentation of three other potential awards-contenders, Quentin Tarantino's "Dango Unchained," Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook."
Also not mentioned on closing night was Lee Daniel's "The Paperboy," starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConnaughey and John Cusack, which was heavily panned and has yet to announce a North American buyer. If Millennium's Avi Lerner's doesn't get the offers he wants, the company may release the film itself. My favorite Cannes tweet is from @MattDentler: "Even if the film didn't win the Cannes Golden Palm, Nicole Kidman's performance in THE PAPERBOY wins the Cannes Golden Shower."
Here's a round-up of other awards: