Cannes Film Festival: Top prizes go to 'Tree of Life,' Kirsten Dunst, 'The Artist'


Image Credit: Fox Searchlight

The jury righted some wrongs.

After the 64th annual Cannes Film Festival was fraught with controversy and bad behavior, it concluded Sunday with a distribution of awards that — whether this was the intention or not — helped smooth over some of the trouble spots, with prizes going to The Tree of Life, Melancholia, and The Artist.



Led by president Robert De Niro, the jury (pictured above) awarded the Palme d’Or to writer-director Terrence Malick’s enigmatic The Tree of Life, a meditation of life, death, and the origins of the universe seen through the lens of a 1950s Texas family. It stars Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, and Sean Penn. Some critics praised while others mocked its mix of suburban Americana with images of the cosmos and evolution, and the movie was the subject of dueling boos and applause in its debut screening at the festival last Monday.

By granting it the Palme d’Or, the jury tips the balance in favor of the ambitious drama, which debuts in the U.S. May 27. No longer the movie that was booed by some, it is now the best-picture winner of Cannes 2011.


The other major news out of the festival was Danish director Lars Von Trier’s bad-taste jokes about being a Nazi, which cast an ugly light around his otherwise widely praised end-of-the-world saga Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst as a new bride growing increasingly distant from her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) just as a new planet emerges in the solar system on a collision course with Earth.

Festival organizers declared Von Trier “persona non grata” after his remarks at the press conference for Melancholia, and he later apologized, but it roused division over whether the Antichrist director, who previously won the Palme d’Or for 2000’s Bjork musical Dancer in the Dark, should be so harshly punished for what was obviously not a serious comment. Melancholia didn’t win any major awards that Von Trier, as writer and director, might have been required to pick up. (His banishment meant he was unwelcome at the ceremony, though he remained eligible to win.)

But in what could be a consolation prize to an also-deserving contributor to the film, Dunst picked up the best actress prize — defeating Tilda Swinton, who was considered a front-runner for her performance as the distraught mother of a high-school killer in We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Again, by recognizing the quality of the movie, the Cannes jury helped push aside the outside distractions that had dominated headlines.


Other winners included French star Jean Dujardin as best actor for his charismatic turn as a 1920s silent-film actor facing career oblivion as talkies take over Hollywood in the melodrama The Artist, which was also shot in black and white, silent-film style. The upbeat, song-and-dance crowdpleaser was one of the most beloved of the festival, and is set to open in the U.S. this fall.

Ryan Gosling’s gritty heist drama Drive earned best-director honors for Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson), while top screenplay went to Joseph Cedar, writer-director of the Israeli film Hearat Shulayim (Footnote), about warring father/son academics.

The French cop saga Polisse won the Jury Prix, and the Grand Prix was split between Le Gamin au vélo (The Kid With a Bike), the story of a neglected boy lashing out after his father abandons him, and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, about life in a small Turkish town.

On Twitter: @Breznican.

Read More:

Cannes 2011: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: Two different movies about parenting and violence

Cannes 2011: Lisa’s Palme d’EW

Cannes 2011: The Oscar contenders

Comments (52 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2
  • Jenckles

    Happily surprised to see Nicolas Winding Refn win Best Director. Always been a huge fan, and I can’t wait to see this movie.
    Same can be said for the rest of the winners, especially ‘Tree of Life’.

    • HD

      I can’t respect anything that gives Kirsten Dunst an award for acting.

      • Miles

        I can’t respect anyone who judges a movie performance before seeing it…

      • Jason

        How about you see the film before you judge her performance. This festival is highly respected. If Dunst won the award, it sure as hell is one good performance.

      • bamalam

        I have to agree with Miles. Some things just surprise people. Who would have thought that Jackie from That ’70s Show and Meg from Family Guy could give such a performance in Black Swan. Mila Kunis is someone to look forward to, as long as she picks the right roles.

      • Chris

        Kirsten was great in All Good Things. The movie played like a Lifetime movie of the week but she gave an Oscar worthy performance.

      • Nick T

        Thats sad only for you.

      • Mr. Burns

        Yeah; and there was ton of scorn for Heath Ledger when it was announced he would be the Joker. Look how that turned out.

      • Ana

        Why, Kirsten Dunst is a very good actress. I haven’t seen all of her movies but she’s never given a bad performance in the ones I have seen. Granted I haven’t heard talk of Oscar since Interview with a Vampire.

    • coachbags

      You know, very popular this summer clothes? ” styshops “. AF, t-shirts, as long as the $12, still not quick action.

    • coachbags

      You know, very popular this summer clothes? ” ww w.styshop s.c om “. AF, t-shirts, as long as the $12, still not quick action. wel come ..go..

  • dipshat

    The Jury (pictured above)… So wait Brad Pitt IS the jury? Okay.

    • dipshat

      NOW there’s a picture of the jury.

    • Sam J

      Oscar contenders, if part of the Academy, can vote for their own films. Tom Hanks voted for Toy Story 3.

      • Woot

        I would have voted for Toy Story 3 and I’m not Tom Hanks.

    • Kaire

      NO, he isn’t on the jury. It consists of Thurman, De Niro and some other guys.

  • Angela

    Cool. It looks like everything ended up well. Kudos to the jury for not letting the controversy get in the way of awarding a film that people seemed to really enjoy. And very excited to see The Tree of Life. Would really love to see a movie as interesting and unconventional (yet crowd-pleasing, apparently) as The Artist get some recognition from mainstream audiences, though I guess we’ll have to wait until fall to see how easily the general public will embrace it.

  • titi

    Cool for Jean ! I’m really happy, that news made my day !

  • Sanjay

    Really happy to see Refn win best director. Great collection of films. Can’t wait to see them.

  • Merson

    It is unfortunate that Tree of Life is only getting a limited release and that we won’t find out how it would have done commercially if released nationwide. It has an interesting cast and it would have been interesting to see how a smaller film for Brad Pitt and Sean Penn would do commercially.
    My favourite Brad Pitt movie is Meet Joe Black (1998). It is an underappreciated and underrated classic. Everyone should watch this epic drama at least once in their life. It should have been much more critically and commercially successful and won a truckload of Oscars.

    • Ana

      Meet Joe Black should have been shorter. I thought there was a good movie in there but the director messed up by stretching out every scene. According to the screenwriter, the script clocked in at 1:45 and the movie ended up at over 3 hours with nothing added in.

  • sabrina W

    i watched it live on canal+ french tv , i was clapping so hard when jean dujardin won , he’s such a happy guy very cool, he deserved all the good things happening to him! and bravo to robert de niro for trying hard to speak french, his pronounciation was pretty good except for a few words he fumbled on but the crowd loved it!!! what about kirsten huh from spiderman to palme d’or not bad!

  • Jeff from Jersey; yes New Jersey

    In watching snips of The Artist, you can see the joy of the picture. Also, having John Goodman and James Cromwell isn*t bad either. As for Ms. Dunst, good for her but I wouldn*t watch that film if the theatre paid for my ticket, popcorn and future considerations.

  • Matt Stone

    I will crawl on my hands and knees to see TREE OF LIFE and MELANCHOLIA Can’t wait for those two.

    • Woot

      Haha same!

    • Sam J

      $18.50 Irvine Spectrum Imax theater

    • Kaire

      Me too. Both sound interesting to me.

  • m1

    This will definitely help The Tree of Life at the box office.

  • Deborah

    Glad to see Pitts film did so well. LOved the trailer

  • Horace Slughorn

    I widely believe that this widely believed to be the most widely praised article to ever widely be released on

    • Skinny

      You are a wide believer, but this does not mean you are fat.

  • Drew

    Just because you don’t think his Hitler comments weren’t “serious” doesn’t mean they weren’t still offensive.

  • Jose

    I was expecting Swinton to to win, maybe Dunst is really good in Melancholia but my jaw dropped when I read that she won.

  • Luke

    Good for Kirsten Dunst. Hopefully, this will lead to more meaty roles. I think she’s a very natural and good actress.

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