Cannes 2011: The Tree of Life scoops Palme d'Or

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Dave Calhoun on who won and who should have won

The rosé has run out, the red carpet needs a good scrub and the Palme d’Or of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has gone to Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ – the favourite for the award before anyone had even seen the film and a little less so once they had.

This year’s nine-strong Cannes jury, including jury president Robert De Niro and jurors Olivier Assayas, Jude Law, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Uma Thurman and Johnnie To, had their work cut out. It was the strongest Cannes for years, with, unusually, no consensus forming around any one title as a sure-fire front-runner for the Palme d’Or.

The Tree of Life’ divided audiences, with many – including myself – recoiling a little from its heart-on-the-sleeve, spiritual earnestness and crude, if wondrous, mechanisms for linking the local with the universal, with images of dinosaurs and the Big Bang sitting alongside a portrait of a family’s life in 1950s Texas which was more recognisably from the director of ‘Badlands’ and ‘Days of Heaven’ than some of the film’s more outré episodes. But no one can’t deny that ‘The Tree of Life’ is a terrifically ambitious, megalith of an art film – and for that reason, it’s hard to begrudge it winning the Palme d’Or.

The festival’s second prize, the Grand Prix, was split between two films, ‘The Kid With a Bike’ by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and ‘Once Upon A Time in Anatolia’ by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The first is a typically economic and wise fable about a troubled young child in working-class Belgium. The second is an epic and rigorous sideways portrait of a night and day in a murder investigation. ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ takes the films of Ceylan (‘Uzak’, ‘Three Monkeys’) somewhere new. For me, it was the only masterpiece in the Cannes competition – and that’s in a year of very strong films all round.

Kirsten Dunst won the best actress award for her role in Lars Von Trier’s ‘Melancholia’, which strikes me as some kind of endurance honour for putting up with Von Trier – on and off set. Her presence in ‘Melancholia’ is striking when incorporated into the more souped-up images of the film – but her depressed zombie act is a bit repetitive. There were not many obvious contenders in this category. Tilda Swinton was perhaps the only one to rival her for the award. Swinton’s absence in the awards list meant there was no joy tonight for anyone attached to Lynne Ramsay’s very impressive ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’.

The best actor prize could fairly have gone to any of Antonio Banderas (‘The Skin I Live In’), Jean Dujardin (‘The Artist’), Thomas Doret (the young boy in the Dardennes’s film, ‘The Kid With a Bike’), as well as several of the actors in ‘Footnote’ or ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’.

But I’m pleased to see the award go to Dujardin. ‘The Artist’ – the story of a silent-movie star, shot like a silent movie – was one of the most simply enjoyable films in the Cannes competition. Dujardin is very charming in it – and I suspect it’s not the last we’ve heard of him and the film for the next eight or nine months. Harvey Weinstein has the film in the US, so it could go all the way to the award ceremonies next year.

Here, then, are all the winners of the main competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival – plus who I think should have won each prize and who picked up that prize in the past three years.

Palme d’Or

Winner:The Tree of Life’ (Terrence Malick)Should have won: ‘Once Upon A Time in Anatolia’ (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)Recent winners: ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’ (2010), ‘The White Ribbon’ (2009), ‘The Class’ (2008).

Grand Prix

Winner: ‘The Kid With a Bike’ (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) and ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) – shared between themShould have won: ‘The Kid with a Bike’ (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)Recent winners: ‘Of Gods and Men’ (2010), ‘A Prophet’ (2009), ‘Gomorrah’ (2008).

Jury Prize

Winner: ‘Polisse’ (Maiwenn)Should have won: Le Havre’ (Aki Kaurismaki)Recent winners: ‘A Screaming Man’ (2010), ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘Thirst’ (2009), ‘Il Divo’ (2008).

Best director

Winner: Nicolas Winding Refn for ‘DriveShould have won: Lynne Ramsay for ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’Recent winners: Mathieu Amalric for ‘On Tour’ (2010), Brillante Mendoza for ‘Kinatay’ (2009), Nuri Bilge Ceylan for ‘Three Monkeys’ (2008).

Best screenplay

Winner: Joseph Cedar for ‘FootnoteShould have won: Joseph Cedar for ‘FootnoteRecent winners: Lee Chang-dong for ‘Poetry’ (2010), Lou Ye for ‘Spring Fever’ (2009), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for ‘The Silence of Lorna’(2008).

Best actor

Winner: Jean Dujardin for ‘The ArtistShould have won: Jean Dujardin for ‘The Artist
Recent winners:
Javier Bardem for ‘Biutiful’ (2010), Christoph Waltz for ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009), Benicio Del Toro for ‘Che’ (2008).

Best actress

Winner: Kirsten Dunst for ‘MelancholiaShould have won: Emily Browning for ‘Sleeping Beauty’Recent winners: Juliette Binoche for ‘Certified Copy’ (2010), Charlotte Gainsbourg for ‘Antichrist’ (2009), Sandra Corveloni for ‘Linha de Passe’ (2008).
Read all our Cannes 2011 reviews here

Author: Dave Calhoun



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