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‘Amour’ by Haneke Wins Cannes Festival’s Palme D’Or Award

A scene from
A scene from "Amour" by Austrian film director Michael Haneke. Emmanuelle Riva plays a woman who is semi-paralyzed after a stroke and is being cared for by her husband (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant). Source: Cannes Film Festival via Bloomberg.

The Cannes Film Festival ended last night with a victory for “Love” (“Amour”) by Michael Haneke, the story of an elderly woman who suffers a debilitating stroke and is looked after by her devoted husband.

It was the second Palme d’Or for Austria’s Haneke, who won in 2009 for “The White Ribbon.” He joins a list of only a half-dozen other two-time winners including Francis Ford Coppola.

During the televised awards ceremony, Haneke invited his two lead actors -- Jean-Louis Trintignant (star of the 1966 “A Man and a Woman”) and Emmanuelle Riva (who was in the 1959 “Hiroshima My Love”) -- on stage. In the movie, she makes him promise never to take her back to the hospital.

“I thank my wife, who has been putting up with me for 30 years,” said the white-haired, white-bearded Haneke. “This film is an illustration of the promise we made to each other in case one of us was to experience a situation like the one in the film.”

Though there were five U.S. contenders out of the 22 vying for the Palme d’Or, none of them won anything. All but one of the awards went to European movies.

The runner-up Grand Prix was garnered by “Reality,” directed by Italy’s Matteo Garrone, about a Naples fishmonger who becomes obsessed with a reality show he auditions for. The film’s lead actor, Aniello Arena, is a prisoner in real life, and part of a theater troupe.

Angels’ Share

The Jury Prize went to the U.K.’s Ken Loach (winner of the 2006 Palme d’Or with “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”). His 2012 “The Angels’ Share” is a feel-good film about a young offender who lifts himself out of delinquency by discovering a vocation in aged whiskey.

Steering this year’s nine-person jury was Italian director Nanni Moretti (“Dear Diary”). His panelists included actor Ewan McGregor and couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier, who turned up to the awards ceremony in an ankle-length skirt with a slit.

Their Palme d’Or pick, “Amour,” opens with the eighty-something lovebirds, both retired music teachers, attending a piano recital in Paris. When they return home, he helps her out of her coat, and compliments her on her beauty.

The next morning, they sit down to breakfast in their dressing gowns and talk about stepping out to buy the pianist’s CD. Suddenly Anne blanks out: Her eyes are wide open, but she seems unable to see or hear anything, and doesn’t react to the faucet that he leaves running in a panic.

By the next scene, Anne is back from hospital and paralyzed on one side. She has suffered a stroke, and a post-stroke operation has backfired. She makes Georges promise to keep her home.

Dance Embrace

Georges becomes her full-time carer, cutting up her food into little mouthfuls, brushing her hair and helping her do her leg exercises. As he lifts her out of her wheelchair in one scene, they embrace in a touchingly still dance.

Haneke films every scene like life itself, virtually in real time. The only interruptions occur during visits from their neurotic daughter (Isabelle Huppert), who discusses her husband and real-estate investments, and when the cleaner vacuums.

Beautiful yet harrowing to watch, “Amour” is a rare instance of a movie camera settling on elderly, wrinkled faces. Haneke is unsparing yet affectionate in his handling of the subject matter.

Cannes this year featured the worst weather in recent memory. It rained for much of the festival, including for the closing-night ceremony, forcing participants to go around, unusually, carrying umbrellas.

Pitt, Kidman

There were plenty of Hollywood stars gracing the red carpet, including Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Bruce Willis and Matthew McConaughey. Kylie Minogue, who had a cameo in the weird French movie “Holy Motors” (by Leos Carax), got photographers working overtime. So did Robert Pattinson, the “Twilight” actor who starred in “Cosmopolis” by David Cronenberg.

It was a breakthrough festival for a string of talented male actors in tough-guy parts. Matthias Schoenaerts played a bouncer-boxer who meets a killer-whale trainer in “Rust & Bone” starring Marion Cotillard.

Tom Hardy was excellent as the fearless Virginia bootlegger in “Lawless” with Shia LaBeouf. And Garrett Hedlund stood out in Walter Salles’s otherwise lackluster adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic coming-of-age novel “On the Road.”

The best-actor prize evaded them all. It went to Mads Mikkelsen for the Danish movie “The Hunt,” directed by Thomas Vinterberg, the story of a teacher wrongly accused of pedophilia.

The Romanian title “Beyond the Hills,” directed by Cristian Mungiu, took the best-script award, while its two leads Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan shared the best-actress honor.

This year’s festival was the 65th of its kind. The first one took place in 1946, a year after World War II ended. Among the event’s earliest award winners were directors Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman and Satyajit Ray.

Cannes major prizes:

Palme d’Or
AMOUR (LOVE) directed by Michael HANEKE

Grand Prix REALITY directed by Matteo GARRONE

Award for Best Director Carlos REYGADAS for POST TENEBRAS LUX Award for Best Screenplay Cristian MUNGIU for DUPA DEALURI (BEYOND THE HILLS) Award for Best Actress Cristina FLUTUR and Cosmina STRATAN in DUPA DEALURI (BEYOND THE HILLS) directed by Cristian MUNGIU Award for Best Actor Mads MIKKELSEN in JAGTEN (THE HUNT) directed by Thomas VINTERBERG Jury Prize THE ANGELS’ SHARE directed by Ken LOACH

(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include: Warwick Thompson on London theater, Jorg von Uthmann on Paris arts, Frederik Balfour on Hong Kong auctions and Greg Evans on U.S. television.

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