Cannes 2012: Michael Haneke's 'Amour' Wins Palme d’Or


After the triumph of his 2009 Palme d’Or winner The White Ribbon, Austrian director Michael Haneke returns to a smaller-scale with this drama of an octogenarian couple, played by French cinema legends Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Nanni Moretti and his jury fell for the Austrian filmmaker's ode to love as the festival wrapped Sunday night. Full winners list includes Mads Mikkelsen, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

CANNES -- Nanni Moretti and his jury fell in love with Amour as Michael Haneke’s film won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, Sunday night.

Amour is the story of an octogenarian couple and how they deal with the end of love and life as the wife deteriorates physically and mentally. The film has been a critics' favorite here since it screened on the fest’s first Sunday. Haneke also won the Palme d’Or for The White Ribbon in 2009.

Amour: Cannes Review

"I thank my wife, who has been putting up with me for years," Haneke said as he took the stage with lead actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as the crowd rose for a standing ovation. 

The 81-year-old Trintignant and 85-year-old Riva are both iconic figures in French cinema. Amour also co-stars Isabelle Huppert as the couple's daughter. 

Meanwhile, Carlos Reygadas won the best director award for Post Tenebras Lux, and Mads Mikkelsen was named best actor for his role in Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt.

"I'm really touched, and it's a big surprise," Mikkelsen said upon accepting his award. 

Alec Baldwin presented this year's best actress prize to the duo of Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur for Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills. Cannes also got a taste of Reality when Matteo Garrone's film won the Grand Prix.

Mistress of ceremonies Berenice Bejo (The Artist) started off paying homage to the "biggest diva of the festival" -- namely "the rain," which fell hard throughout the annual event in the south of France. Cannes was especially glamorous this year as Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson, Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon graced the red carpets with films in competition despite the rebellious Mother Nature, who kept the rain coming for most of the 12-day festival. The Sunday ceremony was conducted in French, per tradition, but featured accents from across the globe.

Cannes 2012: Unseasonably Bad Weather Hits Film Festival

The Camera d'Or prize for best first film was awarded to Beasts of the Southern Wild. The Sundance sensation directed by Benh Zeitlin also won the Fipresci Prize on Saturday. "For everyone making their first film, it's an award for courage and faith as much as skill," Zeitlin said, adding "Cannes is the temple. You never know if you're allowed to dance in the temple, and I've found out that you can."

The Jury Prize went to Ken Loach's The Angels' Share. "Thanks to the jury; you're very nice," Loach said in fluent French. "Cannes shows us that cinema is not just a diversion, it shows us who we are and how we live together." 

“It’s an extraordinary honor. Cannes is the biggest festival of cinema in the world,” Loach said after the ceremony, once again in perfect French. He added that it was a shame his actors weren’t in town to join him to accept the honor. “I’ll celebrate with whisky, maybe one, maybe two, maybe three,” Loach said.

The Angels' Share: Cannes Review

The best screenplay award went to Mungiu for Beyond the Hills. He reminded everyone that the film is based on a true story and added, "I don't think that we can fix the past with our films, but we can make the future a little bit better, at least this is what I hope with my films."

The short film Palme d'Or went to Silent by L. Rezan Yesilbas from Turkey. Cinefondation and short films jury president Jean-Pierre Dardenne presented the prize with Kylie Minogue.

Despite the pouring rain outside, the ambiance was festive as the fest drew to a close. Notably absent from the awards were American accents, with the competition's five U.S. titles shut out of the winners list just one year after Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life won the Palme d'Or. 

The always unpredictable jury president Moretti and his team picked Amour out of the 22-strong competition lineup that saw legendary auteurs battle for the world’s most prestigious film festival prize. Moretti and fellow jurors Diane KrugerEwan McGregorHiam AbbassRaoul PeckAlexander PayneEmmanuelle DevosAndrea Arnold and Jean Paul Gaultier deliberated at the Villa Domergue for hours on Sunday ahead of the ceremony.

THR's CANNES 2012 Video Diary 

While the deliberations can get heated, the jury arrived on the red carpet hand in hand and all smiles as they posed for photographers. Gaultier made a fashion statement sporting a long black skirt for the ceremony.

This festival’s usual suspects graced the red carpet, including fest toppers Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux, Kruger and beau Joshua Jackson, Baldwin and fiancée Hilaria Thomas and his Seduced and Abandoned director James Toback and host of Canal Plus' Le Grand Journal Michel Denisot.

Recent arrivals included L’Oreal talent Andie MacDowell, rocker Sting and wife Trudie Styler, French actress Ludivine Sagnier and The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius, back in town to support his wife, Bejo.

The Artist star Jean Dujardin also was back in Cannes, where he won the best actor award last year, this time to support his wife Alexandra Lamy, who stars in Sandrine Bonnaire's Critics' Week film Maddened by His Absence. Audrey Tautou and Gilles Lellouche, the stars of late director Claude Miller’s Thérèse Desqueyroux, also arrived fashionably late just before the ceremony. The screening was bittersweet since the French film industry is still mourning the famed director's death in April. The film's cast and producers received a standing ovation from the crowd when they entered the theater, escorted by Fremaux.

Thérèse Desqueyroux: Cannes Review

The evening was glamorous but still business as usual as Wild Bunch's Vincent Maraval worked the orchestra before the ceremony and Canal Plus topper Rodolphe Belmer greeted familiar French faces who arrived before the pay TV network aired the ceremony unencrypted in Gaul.

"I'm lucky. I only saw one film, and it was Michael Haneke's Amour," Marche du Film topper Jerome Paillard said, adding that this year's market was "fantastic." "It was a record year in terms of participation. After a few years, business is starting up again, and we've had a lot of positive feedback."

The closing ceremonies were followed by a screening of Miller's Thérèse Desqueyroux and an official dinner and cocktail for VIP guests. 

"It's not over yet!" Fremaux said after the ceremony, adding that "there may still be a technical problem, you never know!"