Amid a downpour, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's film Amour won the prized Palme d'Or at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. The mostly French-produced, French-language film features three great stars of French cinema: Emanuele Riva, best known for her role in Hiroshima mon Amour, Jean-Louis Trintignant of the films A Man and a Woman and Z, and Isabelle Huppert. Almost everyone at Cannes predicted the win. Amour is emotionally wrenching: It deals with the difficult subject of how an elderly couple copes when one partner becomes ill.
This year, surprises came from other categories. The theoretical second prize, known as the Grand Prix, went to Matteo Garrone's Reality. It's about a Neapolitan fishmonger, whose obsession is to find a way onto the Big Brother reality show. The Prix du Jury, considered honorable mention, went to Ken Loach's The Angel's Share. Though, conventional and predictable, it is truly a wonderful film. Another surprise at the other extreme was the Best Director prize that went to Carlos Reygadas for Post Tenebras Lux. This Reygadas work was unquestionably the most daring and formally experimental film at Cannes this year. This chance-taking venture is mystical and beautiful, though one could argue that ultimately, it doesn't "hang together."
Deliberations at Cannes are secret, though Jury President Nanni Moretti devulged a great divergence of opinion this year. To understand the Cannes awards process, you'd need Rosetta Stone-type skill to decipher the games of compromise played during jury discussions. Of course, this is all speculation, but one could interpret the win for Reality, a film most critics wrote off as losing its focus, as a win for Italy (read: Moretti). One might also see the influence of jury members Andrea Arnold and Jean-Paul Gaultier in the prize that went to Reygadas -- and Ewan McGregor's and Raoul Peck's touch in Ken Loach's prize.
Ultimately, it's part of what makes the Cannes Film Festival so much fun. You will just never know the final "truth."