THE Tree of Life, an epic and ambitious coming-of-age film that took years for enigmatic US director Terrence Malick to bring to the screen, won top honours last night at the Cannes festival.
Kirsten Dunst took best actress for her role in Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic psychodrama Melancholia, while France’s Jean Dujardin claimed best actor as the leading man in Michel Hazanavicius’s silent movie The Artist.
Malick, 67, notoriously publicity shy, was not present to accept one of the most coveted prizes in cinema, leaving one of his co-producers, Bill Pohlad, to speak on his behalf.
“I know he is thrilled with this award, as are all of us,” said Pohlad at the climax of a twilight gala awards ceremony that brought down the curtain on the 64th edition of the 12-day film festival.
“The Tree of Life was a long road,” he said of the richly textured story of a tyrannical father, portrayed by Brad Pitt, and his family of three sons in a Texas town in the 1950s. Sean Penn played the eldest son as an adult.
The verdicts of a nine-member jury led by US acting legend Robert De Niro capped a festival that was overshadowed by the organisers’ decision to bar von Trier over remarks he made — meant in jest, he said — about Adolf Hitler.
“Well, what a week it’s been,” said Dunst, 29, who had looked uncomfortable when the Danish director uttered his controversial words at a press conference, but who yesterday was flushed with joy as she accepted her laurel.
She portrayed one of two sisters — the other played by Charlotte Gainsbourg — who react differently as Earth is about to be destroyed in a collision with another planet.
Forty-year-old Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn won the best director prize for his high-octane film noir Drive.
Refn came well-prepared for his moment of glory, reading his list of people to thank from his iPhone.
The runner-up Grand Prix award was shared by two-time Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for The Kid With a Bike and Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan for the police drama Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.
French actress-turned-director Maiwenn, 35, won the jury prize for the third police story to get a Cannes gong, Poliss.
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