Cannes battle of titans crowns pre-Nazi drama

26th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Austria's Michael Haneke’s film, an austere black-and-white study of malice in a German village on the eve of World War I, headed off tough competition to take home the coveted Palme d'Or Sunday.

Cannes -- Billed as a battle of the titans, the Cannes film festival handed top honours Sunday to a chilling drama on the roots of Nazi savagery and sent a bevy of world film auteurs home empty-handed.

The White Ribbon by Austria's Michael Haneke, an austere black-and-white study of malice in a German village on the eve of World War I, headed off tough competition to take home the coveted Palme d'Or.

But movie giants Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach, Jane Campion and Ang Lee -- heading the pack of 20 top world filmmakers running for the Palme -- left without a mention from the jury headed by French actress Isabelle Huppert.

Quentin Tarantino, whose Inglourious Basterds was one of the hottest tickets in town, had to make do with a best actor prize for Christoph Waltz, an Austrian TV star who stole the show as a polyglot Nazi dubbed the Jew Hunter.

Instead, dark pics from Asia netted a host of prizes, while France's Charlotte Gainsbourg clinched a best actress award for Antichrist, a Lars Von Trier thriller that shocked Cannes with graphic scenes of sex and mutilation.

"Violence reaps rewards at Cannes," said the New York Times.

The runner-up Grand Prix went to French director Jacques Audiard for the gripping prison drama A Prophet, while cult directors from China, Korea, and the Philippines all took place on the Cannes podium.

South Korea's Park Chan-wook jointly won the festival's Jury Prize for a blood-and-gore tale about vampire love titled Thirst -- an award shared with Britain's Andrea Arnold for London suburb drama Fish Tank.

Controversial Filipino Brillante Mendoza got the Best Director prize for a gritty grinding look at violence in Kinatay, which means massacre and shows the slow butchering of a prostitute into pieces with blunt kitchen knives.

And a torrid and unexpectedly graphic gay love movie from China, Spring Fever, won Best Screenplay for outlawed director Lou Ye.

Antichrist, the film that brought scandal to Cannes with graphic scenes of sexual mutilation that provoked fainting and walk-outs, had received an "anti-prize" for misogyny that the festival director denounced as censorship.

But the movie's Danish director Von Trier -- who left before the awards ceremony -- received an unexpected red-carpet tribute from Gainsbourg, who insisted on sharing her best actress award with him.

Von Trier "has allowed me to live what I believe to be the most intense, the most painful, and most exciting experience of my whole life," said Gainsbourg, who plays a woman driven violently insane by grief in the film.

Australian Aboriginal director Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah was awarded the Camera d'Or prize for a first film, and Alain Resnais, 86, the grand old man of French cinema and erstwhile "New Wave" icon, was awarded a special prize for his half-century career.

The 12-day Riviera festival toned down the glitz for this year's recession-era bash and was lighter than usual in star power, but it still saw celebs like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sashay up the fabled red carpet.

Penelope Cruz was among the A-list celebrities at the annual French Riviera bash, who also included Martin Scorsese and Jim Carrey.

The late Heath Ledger's unfinished stint in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was screened out of competition, while Spider-Man director Sam Raimi returned to horror with his new flick Drag Me To Hell.

The festival opened with a splash with a Disney-Pixar 3D animation Up, the format hailed as the future of cinema.

Emma Charlton/AFP/Expatica

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