Wouldn’t you bloody well know it. Before the festival was tarnished by the Von Trier/Nazi scandal, all anyone seemed interested in talking about was the way Terrence Malick’s latest had split the audiences in attendance almost straight down the middle. Not only that, The Tree of Life also inspired a rejuvenated debate over the nature of film, and the sometimes opposing ideals of entertainment and art.
I ended my review stating that your reception of the film would depend entirely on what you valued more in your film-making experience, and it seems we now know that the Jury values the art of something over its entertainment value. Neither approach is necessarily right or wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the film was already chosen before even the first minutes of footage rolled. Held up to the light, The Tree of Life looks exactly like a Cannes film, something eccentric enough, with grand enough aspirations and some sort of importance that extends beyond what we can actually see. And that troubles me somewhat: should a film win because it fits the artistic manifesto of the festival, or should it win on quality? Robert DeNiro’s comment after the decision answers precisely that:
It seemed to have the size, the importance, the tension to fit the prize.
Not, “it was fantastic,” not “it moved me,” but it fit the bill.
The Best Actress award was less of a controversial thing, with Kirsten Dunst’s performance in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia earning her the accolade, after strong competition from co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg and We Need To Talk About Kevin’s Tilda Swinton (who I would have chosen). Perhaps the win was down to the difference between this role and Dunst’s usual performances, and there is certainly a maturity to the role, and incredible bravery in the performance that warrants added praise beyond even how well Dunst brings her character to the screen.
Huge praise is due for the decision to hand over the Best Actor gong to Jean Dujardin for his astounding performance in Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, and if that goes anyway to ensuring that more people go and see it when the Weinsteins bring it to cinemas it can only be a good thing. Seriously, I cannot say enough about the film, or its profound effect (which was far greater than the immediate legacy of The Tree of Life for me), and I urge everyone to take the opportunity to find and watch it.
The big four awards were rounded out by a surprising, but brilliant choice of Nicholas Winding Refn, for the deliriously engaging Drive, which will definitely be the most commercially successful film of this year’s festival, and is the second film, behind The Artist that I would heartily recommend to all I meet.
Here’s the list of winners in full:
- The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick
- Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- The Kid With a Bike by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Award for Best Director
- Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive
- Poliss by Maiwenn
Award for Best Actor
- Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Award for Best Actress
- Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia
Award for Best Screenplay
- Joseph Cedar for Footnote
So, that’s the Grand Jury Competition sorted, but there was also the small matter of the secondary competition – Un Certain Regard – which was never going to be won by my personal pick (Gus Van Sant’s Restless), since the film’s inclusion now looks to have been little more than an attempt to add a little glamour to the traditionally sparkle-free competition. Anyway, here’s the run down of what walked away with the three prizes – starting with a shared victory for the main prize (yep, total cop-out in my eyes as well…)
Un Certain Regard Prize
- Arirang by Kim Ki-Duk
- Halt Auf Freier Strecke (Stopped on Track) by Andreas Dresen
UCR Special Jury Prize
- Elena by Andrey Zvyagintsev
UCR Directing Prize
- Be Omid É Didar (Au revoir) by Mohammad Rasoulof
And, beyond the reaches of the two big competitions, the rest of the Awards panned out like this:
- Cross-Country by Maryna Vroda
- Badpakje 46 (Swimsuit 46) by Wannes Destoop
- Las Acacias by Pablo Giorgelli presented during Critics’ Week
- First Prize: Der Brief (The Letter) by Doroteya Droumeva
- Second Prize: Drari by Kamal Lazraq
- Third Prize: Ya-Gan-Bi-Hang (Fly by Night) by Son Tae-gyum
So that’s it, another year, another load of films for the general cinema-going population to look forward to. Stick around for one more post from me, going through my own picks for the best of the fest, and remember to follow me on Twitter.
If you missed any Cannes coverage…