CANNES — “Amour,” Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke’s emotionally acute drama about the final months of a Parisian couple’s marriage, won the Palme d’Or at the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival on Sunday night, topping a competition slate that yielded not a single win for an American film despite one of the most robust-looking U.S. lineups in years.
It’s the second Palme victory for Haneke, who also won for his previous film, 2009’s “The White Ribbon.” Helmer joins the ranks of the Cannes elite who have twice taken the fest’s top prize: Alf Sjoberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Bille August, Emir Kusturica, Shohei Imamura, and Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.
Haneke also made Cannes history by becoming the first director to win a pair of Palmes just three years apart. No other helmer has won two in such a short length of time; the previous record holder was August, who won in 1988 for “Pelle the Conqueror” and 1992 for “The Best Intentions.” Topping it off, Haneke extended an already enviable Cannes winning streak, having also won the directing nod for 2005’s “Cache” and the Grand Prix for 2001’s “The Piano Teacher.”
Accepting the Palme from actress Audrey Tautou onstage, Haneke ended his speech by thanking his wife, “who has supported me for 30 years. This film is a bit of an illustration of the promise that we gave each other if one of us is in a situation like the one we see in the film.”
The helmer accepted the prize alongside his stars, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, who described Haneke as “in my opinion, the greatest director alive.”
“Amour,” which Sony Classics will distribute in the U.S., drew almost universal critical acclaim since it screened early in the fest, and the jury suggested backstage that the film had been a clear frontrunner for the Palme throughout. Juror Jean Paul Gaultier admitted to “crying a lot” during the film, and jury president Nanni Moretti noted the “fundamental contribution” of Trintignant and Riva, even though neither thesp received an acting prize.
“There were members of the jury who really wanted to give prizes other than the Palme d’Or to this film,” Moretti said, explaining that the festival’s rules forbade giving another award to a pic that won the Palme, the Grand Prix or the directing prize.
This year’s Grand Prix was presented to “Reality,” Matteo Garrone’s look at a Neapolitan fishmonger’s all-consuming obsession with appearing on the Italian version of “Big Brother.” Garrone previously won the same prize for his 2008 mob epic “Gomorrah.”
Despite the presence of an impressive five U.S. productions in competition, the jury bestowed no prizes on Wes Anderson’s curtain-raiser “Moonrise Kingdom,” Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy,” Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly,” John Hillcoat’s “Lawless” or Jeff Nichols’ “Mud.” Star-packed English-language pics “On the Road,” from Brazil’s Walter Salles, and “Cosmopolis,” from Canada’s David Cronenberg, also came up empty-handed.
Sole prize for a U.S. entry was awarded outside the main competition, as the Camera d’Or jury presented its first-film prize to Benh Zeitlin’s Un Certain Regard entry, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” adding to its Fipresci international critics’ kudo on Saturday night. The Louisiana-set coming-of-ager has had a dazzling fest run since its world premiere at Sundance, where it received the grand jury prize for dramatic features and was picked up for release by Fox Searchlight.
Though the outcome would seem to reinforce the truism that U.S. pics rarely fare well with Cannes juries, it reps something of a turnaround after the strong showing for Yank talent at last year’s fest, where “The Tree of Life,” “Drive” and actress Kirsten Dunst (“Melancholia”) all garnered awards. By contrast, this year’s jury lavished its love on a small pool of largely Europe-financed entries that played to favorable critical response but considerably less pre-fest attention than their starrier counterparts.
Asked how he felt about the lineup’s seven North American entries being passed over for awards, juror Alexander Payne diplomatically explained, “I think it’s incorrect to try to draw a generalization about the state of affairs in any particular country vis-a-vis its film based on one tiny snapshot,” citing the many factors that make festival selections unrepresentative of national cinemas at large.
Moretti speculated on the U.S. shutout further, saying, “We found films that were less polished but more authentic.”
Directing honors went to Mexican provocateur Carlos Reygadas for “Post tenebras lux,” a highly experimental, semi-autobiographical drama that had its admirers but received the loudest boos of the competition. Reygadas was previously at Cannes with each of his three previous features: 2002’s “Japon,” 2005’s “Battle in Heaven” and his 2007 jury prizewinner, “Silent Light.”
Juror Andrea Arnold, whom Moretti had earlier commended for her “enormous energy,” spoke up in defense of Reygadas’ film at the press conference following the ceremony. “I think it’s one of the films that dared to fail and be brave about life … and I actually love that it’s won an award.”
Scandi star Mads Mikkelsen won the actor prize for his performance as a small-town kindergarten teacher accused of sexually abusing his young charges in Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt.” The Danish-language drama also drew top honors from the ecumenical jury.
Romanian thesps Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan shared the actress prize for their turns as a pair of young women who cause a stir at a rural monastery in Cristian Mungiu’s austere exorcism drama “Beyond the Hills.” Mungiu, who won the Palme d’Or for his 2007 feature “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” also received the screenplay prize for “Hills,” which was the only picture to claim more than one award at Sunday’s ceremony.
The jury prize went to Ken Loach’s lighthearted whisky-heist comedy “The Angels’ Share,” the first Cannes honor for the British helmer since “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” won the Palme d’Or in 2006. Loach previously won jury prizes for 1993’s “Raining Stones” and 1990’s “Hidden Agenda,” as well as a Young Cinema award for 1991’s “Looks and Smiles.”
While the Palme went to “Amour,” a Paris-set, French-lingo drama helmed by an Austrian, the three Gallic-directed films in competition were all bypassed for prizes, despite having garnered significant attention. Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” a Sony Classics pickup, drew acclaim for its performances by Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard, and Alain Resnais’ “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!” was expected to draw recognition for the 89-year-old auteur.
But for the journalists assembled inside the Palais des Festivals on Sunday, the biggest mystery was the lack of prizes for the competition’s most passionately received and debated entry, Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors,” to the extent that applause erupted at the press conference when Moretti was asked about the slight.
“The films by Leos Carax, Ulrich Seidl (‘Paradise: Love’) and Carlos Reygadas were probably the films that were the most divisive for the jury,” Moretti said. “Because we were trying to find agreement between everyone on the jury … we discussed them quite a bit, and one of those films won, so the others didn’t happen.”
In addition to Moretti, Arnold, Gaultier and Payne, the competition jury consisted of actresses Hiam Abbass, Emmanuelle Devos and Diane Kruger; actor Ewan McGregor; and director Raoul Peck.
In other awards doled out before Sunday’s festivities, the Un Certain Regard jury, headed by Tim Roth, gave its top prize to “After Lucia,” Mexican helmer Michel Franco’s tough-minded drama about teenage bullying, and a jury prize to “Le grand soir,” a comedy from French duo Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern. An actress prize was presented jointly to Belgium’s Emilie Dequenne (for Joachim Lafosse’s “Our Children”) and Canada’s Suzanne Clement (for Xavier Dolan’s “Laurence Anyways”), and Bosnia’s Aida Begic received a special distinction award for “Children of Sarajevo.”
The top prize in Directors’ Fortnight was given to Chilean helmer Pablo Larrain for his Gael Garcia Bernal starrer “No,” the conclusion to his trilogy about the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Also in the sidebar, Algerian helmer Merzak Allouache’s “The Repentant” won the Europa Cinemas Label for best European film, while French director Noemie Lvovsky’s time-travel comedy “Camille Rewinds” took the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers’ SACD prize for a French-language film.
The Critics’ Week Grand Prix was awarded to “Here and There,” Antonio Mendez Esparza’s tale of a Mexican-born immigrant returning home to his family after spending several years in the U.S. Rounding out the sidebar, the inaugural Visionary prize was given to Bulgarian director Ilian Metev’s documentary “Sofia’s Last Ambulance,” and the ACID/CCAS distribution support citation went to Argentine director Alejandro Fadel’s “The Wild Ones.”
In addition to “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” the Fipresci jury honored Belorussian helmer Sergei Loznitsa’s WWII drama “In the Fog” (competition) and frosh French director Rachid Djaidani’s “Hold Back” (Directors’ Fortnight).
MAIN JURY PRIZES
Palme d’Or: “Amour” (Michael Haneke, France-Germany-Austria)
Grand Prix: “Reality” (Matteo Garrone, Italy-France)
Director: Carlos Reygadas, “Post tenebras lux” (Mexico-France-Germany-Netherlands)
Jury prize: “The Angels’ Share” (Ken Loach, U.K.-France-Belgium-Italy)
Actor: Mads Mikkelsen, “The Hunt” (Denmark-Sweden)
Actress (tie): Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan (“Beyond the Hills,” Romania-France-Belgium)
Screenplay: Cristian Mungiu (“Beyond the Hills,” Romania-France-Belgium)
UN CERTAIN REGARD JURY PRIZES
Main prize: “After Lucia” (Michel Franco, Mexico)
Jury prize: “Le grand soir” (Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern, France)
Actress (tie): Emilie Dequenne (“Our Children,” Belgium-Luxembourg-France-Switzerland) and Suzanne Clement, “Laurence Anyways” (Canada-France)
Special distinction of the jury: “Children of Sarajevo” (Aida Begic, Bosnia-Herzegovina-Germany-France-Turkey)
OTHER JURY PRIZES
Camera d’Or: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Benh Zeitlin, U.S.)
Directors’ Fortnight Art Cinema Award: “No” (Pablo Larrain, Chile-U.S.-France)
Directors’ Fortnight Europa Cinemas Label: “The Repentant” (Merzak Allouache, Algeria-France)
Directors’ Fortnight SACD Prize: “Camille Rewinds” (Noemie Lvovsky, France)
Critics’ Week Grand Prix: “Here and There” (Antonio Mendez Esparza, Spain-U.S.-Mexico)
Critics’ Week Visionary Prize: “Sofia’s Last Ambulance” (Ilian Metev, Germany-Bulgaria-Croatia)
Critics’ Week ACID/CCAS Distribution Support: “The Wild Ones” (Alejandro Fadel, Argentina)
Short Films Palme d’Or: “Silence” (Rezan Yesilbas, Turkey)
Ecumenical Jury Prize: “The Hunt” (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark-Sweden)
Competition: “In the Fog” (Sergei Loznitsa, Germany-Russia-Latvia-Netherlands-Belorussia)
Un Certain Regard: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Benh Zeitlin, U.S.)
Directors’ Fortnight: “Hold Back” (Rachid Djaidani, France)