Haneke's 'Amour' wins top prize at Cannes
CANNES, France (AFP) - "Amour (Love)," the wrenching tale of an elderly Parisian caring for his dying wife, scooped top prize in Cannes on Sunday, handing a second Palme d'Or in three years to Austria's Michael Haneke.
Confirming Haneke's status as arguably the most important film director working in Europe, the jury headed by Italian director Nanni Moretti crowned his latest film above 21 others racing for Cannes Film Festival's top award.
Haneke's octogenarian actors, French screen icon Jean-Louis Trintignant, 81, and Emmanuelle Riva, 85, bowled Cannes over in the story of Georges and Anne, an adoring couple whose bond is tested after she suffers a stroke.
Hailed as a "masterpiece" by critics, and the hands-down favourite to win, the French-language "Love" marked a journey into tender new territory for a director better known for exposing the icy secrets of the soul.
The director's sober camera chronicles the intimacy of Anne's physical and mental decline, the crushing efforts required of ageing Georges to help her stand, wash or eat, fulfilling a pledge to care for her at home until the end.
Both actors climbed on stage at the star-studded gala in the Riviera city to accept the award with Haneke, who dedicated it to his wife of 30 years.
"This film is an illustration of the promise we made to each other, if either one of us finds ourselves in the situation that is described in the film," the 70-year-old director told the audience.
Speaking for the rest of the jury, the designer Jean-Paul Gaultier said Riva and Trintignant had delivered "the greatest emotion of all the movies we saw."
"I must say that I cried a lot, I was choking. But I love to be hurt in that way. It was fabulous, very poetic and absolutely admirable."
Haneke took the Palme d'Or three years ago for a very different work, "The White Ribbon" a black-and-white study of malice in a German village on the eve of World War I, which some saw as a parable on the roots of Nazi savagery.
He now joins a highly select club of two-time laureates, including US director Francis Ford Coppola, Denmark's Bille August, Serbia's Emir Kusturica, Japan's Shohei Imamura and the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
Cannes' best actor award went to Danish heart-throb Mads Mikkelsen, searing as a man falsely accused of molesting a child in the psychological thriller "The Hunt" by Thomas Vinterberg.
Mikkelsen, 46, is best known to international audiences for his role as James Bond's nemesis Le Chiffre in 2006's "Casino Royale."
Two young Romanians, Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, shared the best actress prize for their roles in Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills," about a young nun and her friend who falls victim to a deadly "exorcism."
Mungiu, who captured the Palme d'Or in 2007 for the Communist-era abortion drama "4 Years, 3 Months and 2 Days", also won this year's screenplay prize for the story that explores how badly institutions can fail the individual.
"My concern was to talk about something that matters. There are so many films today that are only concerned with entertaining," Mungiu told AFP-TV as he left the awards ceremony.