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Cannes in the can: European winners, American losers

The Cannes Film Festival closed up shop this weekend (after some noted scandal) and Michael Haneke’s critical favorite AMOUR is carting home the Palme d’Or, while REALITY by Matteo Garrone nabbed the Grand Prix. AMOUR is Haneke’s second victory at Cannes, after 2009′s sparse and gently unsettling black and white feature THE WHITE RIBBON, and this second win is a testament to his considerable talents: having already established himself as the auteur of much darker fare (CACHE and FUNNY GAMES, especially, weren’t what you’d call feel-good movies), it’s remarkable that he has made an equally successful impression with his latest, decidedly more docile feature, which depicts love, loss and family for an octogenarian couple portrayed by French film legends Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

After last year’s coup for North America, with Terrence Malick grabbing the Palme d’Or for TREE OF LIFE and Kirsten Dunst clinching Best Actress for MELANCHOLIA, Hollywood was was out in force at this year’s fest, both in competition and on the red carpet. Alas, none of the films managed to score top awards. Lee Daniels (of PRECIOUS fame) was in competition with crime thriller THE PAPERBOY, starring Nicole Kidman and John Cusack, as was Andrew Dominik for his Brad Pitt vehicle KILLING THEM SOFTLY. The latter, also a crime noir, was received warmly by critics, which is largely unsurprising considering the cast supporting Pitt: James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard and Ray Liotta (this reads like an update of the ideal cast for GOODFELLAS 2).

Other notable winners included CASINO ROYALE bad guy Mads Mikkelsen winning Best Actor for Danish film THE HUNT, in which he portrays a man accused of child abuse, and the tied Best Actress winners Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, for their turns in BEYOND THE HILLS, another exorcism story ‘based on a true story’. HILLS also won Best Screenplay, awarded to previous Palme d’Or-winner Cristian Mungiu. Last but certainty not least, top Sundance award-winner BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD got further momentum when it was awarded the cinematography Camera d’Or prize among other notable mentions. The film will be in theaters next month.

Since Cannes is nothing without a little gossip and controversy, there was some requisite splash-making going on, most notably by the long-lost Paul Thomas Anderson who unveiled a clip of his ‘Scientology film’ THE MASTER, starring also long-lost Joaquin Phoenix. Additionally, we heard some barking from Alec Baldwin, who publicly mouthed off about Harvey Weinstein, calling him “a fucking douche bag.” What’s behind this latest Baldwin tirade? Apparently, The Weinstein Company has declined to finance Alec’s documentary SEDUCED AND ABANDONED. The film, ironically enough, is about the difficulty of finding film financing in modern-day Hollywood, leading many to speculate that the verbal attack was a (lowbrow) publicity tactic. At least ‘douche bag’ is an improvement on what Baldwin called his daughter a few years back (that was a “rude, thoughtless little pig,” dear friends).