After eleven days, hundreds of screenings and thousands of snaps from the paparazzi, there could only be one Palme d’Or winner.
“The White Riband,” by Austrian director Michael Haneke, was awarded the prize for its depiction of the cruel punishments meted out at a rural German school before the First World War. “The Palme d’Or is the best prize a filmmaker can win,” said Haneke at a press conference following his award. “I am not proud, but I am very happy. In my opinion, it’s silly to be proud.” It was a case of fifth time lucky for Haneke, who has previously been nominated for the award for “Funny Games” (1997), “Code Unknown” (2000), “The Piano Teacher” (2001) and “Hidden” (2005). “There are always rumors at the festival, and one must not take them seriously,” the director said. “When I presented “Hidden” [in 2005], everyone was telling me I was going to win the Palme. And I didn’t get it.” Jury president Isabelle Huppert, the French actress who won the best actress prize at the 2001 festival for “The Piano Teacher,” said she was delighted to have the chance to honor her former director.
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“I think I always loved him as a director, and that’s why I’ve worked with him before,” she said at the post-awards press conference. “To me, the movie is very philosophical. And his style, and his direction are totally ethical in my mind. That’s what I wanted to reward.” The American actress Robin Wright Penn, who also sat on the festival jury, laughed off rumors that the decision was hotly disputed. “There have been rumors circulating that we were fighting in the room,” she told the press conference. “The beauty about loving each other…[is that] we could disagree, and we still love each other. I felt like we built a consensus among us,” she said. “It was like being on “Big Brother”, except you could go to the movies,” added British screenwriter and fellow juror Hanif Kureishi. “Some of the films are very long,” he joked. Elsewhere, Charlotte Gainsbourg won the best actress prize for her shocking turn in Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist”, featuring scenes of genital mutilation that left audiences stunned. Christolph Waltz won best actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” while Brillante Mendoza secured the best director gong for “Kinatay.” The jury prize was shared by Korean auteur Park Chan-Wook’s vampire film “Thirst,” and Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank,” while the grand prix went to “The Prophet,” by director Jacques Audiard.