Utpal Borpujari

May 29, 2009

Haneke walks away with the Palm

By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes

Violence – both graphic and artistic depiction of it –  seemed to have triumphed at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival as a jury dominated by women chose some of the most violent films for the top awards Sunday night.

“The White Ribbon”, Austrian director Michael Haneke’s morality tale shot stunningly in black & white and set in a German-speaking village where strange and violent incidents shake the traditional Protestant populace in a year leading to the First World War, walked away with the coveted Palme d’Or.

The best actor award went to Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, whose portrayal of a suave but extremely-violent Nazi intelligence officer in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” will probably counted as among the best screen villains in times to come.

The best actress was Charlotte Gainsbourg of France, whose violent acts in Danish director Lars von Trier’s festival shocker “Antichrist” repelled many.

The Grand Prize, which counts after the Palme D’Or, went to Jacques Audiard’s gritty prison drama “A Prophet”, which has a scene where the young protagonist slices the neck of a fellow prisoner with a blade held between his teeth.

The Jury Prize went jointly to Korean director Park Chan-Wook’s priest-turned-vampire bloody tale “Thirst” and British filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank”, and the best director was Brillante Mendoza of the Philippines, whose “Kinatay” left many cold with its violent tone, including a scene of a physical dismemberment of a female character.

The jury, headed by legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert and including India’s Sharmila Tagore, chose Feng Mai for the best screenplay award for “Spring Fever”, a graphically-done gay love story by Lou Ye, who has been banned by China for bringing his “Summer Palace” to Cannes in 2006.

The jury included five women – Huppert, Tagore, actresses Asia Argento from Italy, Shu Qi from Taiwan and Robin Wright Penn from the United States – along with Turkish director-actor Nuri Bilge Ceylan, South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong, American director-screenwriter James Gray and writer-screenwriter Hanif Kureishi from the UK.

Another jury selected Australian Warwick Thornton’s “Samson and Delilah”, a gritty love story set in an aboriginal backdrop, for the best first film Camera d’Or award.

The highlight of the awards ceremony was Huppert’s presentation of a “lifetime achievement award for his work and his exceptional contribution to the history of cinema” to French director, Alain Resnais, who turns 87 next month. Resnais’ “Wild Grass” was in Competition this year.

“The White Ribbon” deservedly won the top award as a film which has as its undercurrent reasons that led to the rise of Fascism in early 20th Century Europe, and its narrative has lessons for present times too, when religious extremism is raising its ugly head in many parts of the world.

The film’s depiction of physical and psychological violence against children, inflicted by the grown ups for the slightest deviation from the moral code set by some of them, and that against women even as the men go about their cruel but hushed-up acts, hold true for many present societies as well.

This could well be marked as the year of violence for Cannes, when most of the crowd-pleasers, such as Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock”, Jane Campion’s “Bright Star”, Ken Loach’s “Looking For Eric”, Pablo Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces” and Elia Suleiman’s “The Time That Remains”, went home empty handed

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 26-05-2009)


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