Downbeat dramas sweep Cannes awards (Lead)

May 25th, 2009 - 2:38 am ICT by IANS  

By Saibal Chatterjee
Cannes, May 25 (IANS) Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”, an austere, masterly study of humankind’s innate malevolence, won the Palme d’Or at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival Sunday night.

Haneke had won the best director prize at Cannes in 2005 for the French-language film “Cache” (Hidden).

“The White Ribbon”, an exquisitely crafted but deeply disturbing black-and-white film set in a northern German village a year before the outbreak of World War I, edged out French auteur Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet”, Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” and Israeli-Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman’s autobiographical “The Time that Remains”.

The jury headed by French cinema legend Isabel Huppert gave the runners-up prize to Audiard’s gritty prison drama about a young boy who becomes a man during a six-year jail term.

The jury, which included four other actresses - India’s Sharmila Tagore, Hollywood’s Robin Wright Penn, Italy’s Asia Argento and Taiwan’s Shu Qi - sprang a few surprises by handing out the best screenplay prize to Lou Ye’s gay-themed Chinese film, “Spring Fever”, and the best director award to the Philippines’ Brillante Mendoza for the violence-ridden “Kinatay”. Both films earned largely negative notices from the critics attending the festival.

French-British screen performer and singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg, who survived life-threatening cerebral haemorrhage in 2007, deservedly won the best actress award for her gutsy performance in Lars von Trier’s difficult-to-grasp and nightmarish portrayal of a marriage gone sour in “Antichrist”.

The award for best actor went to multilingual Austrian actor Christoph Waltz for his bravura interpretation of the character of Colonel Hans Landa, a glib Nazi “Jew hunter” in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”.

A Special Cannes Film Festival Prize was given to 87-year-old French master Alain Resnais for his new film “Wild Grass”.

Australian director Warwick Thornton’s “Samson and Delilah”, a love story that unfolds on the edge of existence in an Aboriginal community, bagged the Camera d’Or for the best debut film. The winner was chosen by a six-member jury presided over by Moroccan-French actor-director Roschdy Zem.

“Dogtooth”, a provocative Greek drama about a family of five eking out a cocooned existence in a remote country house, was Saturday night adjudged the best film of the Un Certain Regard (UCR) section.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, “Dogtooth” was the first Greek film to make it to the Cannes official selection since Theo Angelopoulos’ “Eternity and a Day” won the Palme d’Or here in 1998.

Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective” bagged the UCR Jury Prize. The film is about a renegade cop who wants the law to change.

Bahman Ghobadi’s “No One Knows About Persian Cats”, a freewheeling Iranian film about the underground music scene in Tehran, shared the UCR Special Prize with Mia Hansen-Love’s French film “Father of My Children”.

Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino headed the five-member UCR jury, which included veteran Indian journalist and festival programmer Uma Da Cunha and the co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival, Piers Handling.

On the sidelines of the festival, Austrian director Michael Haneke’s bleak and disturbing portrait of a repressed village in pre-Nazi Germany, “The White Ribbon” won the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Prize.

Seasoned British filmmaker Ken Loach’s “Looking for Eric” bagged the Ecumenical Jury Prize for its uplifting drama about former Manchester United star Eric Cantona and a down-and-out postman who he inspires out of an emotional hole.

Interestingly, the Ecumenical Jury, for the first time ever, decided to give an “anti-award” to Danish auteur Lars von Trier’s controversial “Antichrist”, which, the deciding panel felt, was outright “misogynist”.

While the director was at pains to stress that the film was only a rendition of a dark dream that he had during a protracted bout of personal depression, the jury saw in “Antichrist” a suggestion that women represented an evil force and deserved to be persecuted.

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