CANNES, FRANCE — The 64th Cannes Film Festival provided an exceptionally rich and varied slate and the jury — headed by Robert De Niro–proved both gracious and judicious in dividing their prizes among eight films.
As expected, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life won the Palme d'Or, which was accepted on behalf of the reclusive director by his producer Bill Poland. The award seemed a forgone conclusion, thanks to the bizarre press conference performance that resulted in Melancholia's director Lars Von Trier being banned from the festival. Another powerful contender, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's challenging police procedural Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, was likely shown too late in the festival to wrest the Palme from The Tree, although it's a tribute to the movie's partisans that it split the second place Grand Prix with the Dardenne brothers' The Kid With a Bike. The third place Prix du Jury went to Polisse, a melodramatic portrait of the Paris Child Protection Unit. Resplendent in a revealing red toga and bondage high heels, the director Maïwenn gave the award ceremony's liveliest performance — the exaggerated sighs with which she gave thanks for her prize were as hilariously bogus as the movie itself.
Named best director for his forceful, formalist action film Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn thanked the jury for their “good taste.” Joseph Cedar won the award for best screenplay for his Talmudic dark comedy Footnote, dedicating it to the American distributor Don Krim, the founder of Kino Films, who passed away in New York on Friday. Acting awards went to Jean Dujardin for his role as a washed-up silent star in Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist and to the long suffering Kirsten Dunst for her role in Melancholia and, unacknowledged, her performance at Von Trier's unfortunate press conference. The audience laughed appreciatively when, in accepting her prize, she began by saying, in pure American, “Wow — what a week it's been.”
The Camera d'Or for best first feature was awarded to Argentine director Pablo Giorgelli for his minimalist road film Las Acacias — a work whose modesty belied its considerable technical skill. Shut out by the jury, Aki Kaurismäki's critical favorite Le Havre received the international film critics' FIPRESCI prize.