- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

CANNES, France — Austrian director Michael Haneke’s somber drama “The White Ribbon” claimed the top prize Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival, where Quentin Tarantino and Lars von Trier entries earned the acting honors.

It was a big night for Austria, whose triumphs included Christoph Waltz as best actor for Mr. Tarantino’s World War II epic “Inglourious Basterds.” Charlotte Gainsbourg won the best-actress honor for Mr. von Trier’s “Antichrist,” a film that riled and repelled many Cannes viewers with its explicit images of physical abuse involving a grieving couple.

Mr. Haneke addressed his wife as he accepted his award, noting that “happiness is very rare.”

“This is one moment in my life in which I’m very happy, and so are you, I believe,” said Mr. Haneke, who received the festival’s Palme d’Or for his gorgeously photographed black-and-white tale. “The White Ribbon” examines themes of communal guilt, distrust and punishment among residents of a small German town besieged by tragedies and strange occurrences as World War I approaches.

The second-place grand prize went to French director Jacques Audiard’s prison drama “A Prophet.”

Miss Gainsbourg delivers a terrifying performance as a psychotic woman torturing her husband (played by Willem Dafoe) and mutilating herself during a trip to the woods intended as a healing sojourn after the death of their child.

Mr. Waltz earned the best-actor award for his gleefully homicidal role as Nazi Col. Hans Landa, renowned in Germany as an ace Jew hunter in “Inglourious Basterds,” Mr. Tarantino’s rewrite of the history books that follows the exploits of a band of Jewish Allied commandos led by Brad Pitt.

“Above all I owe this to Hans Landa and his unique and inimitable creator, Quentin Tarantino,” Mr. Waltz said. “You gave me my vocation back.”

Miss Gainsbourg thanked Mr. Dafoe and Mr. von Trier, “who allowed me to live what I believe to be the strongest, most painful and most exciting experience of my whole life.” She also thanked her father, the late singer and actor Serge Gainsbourg, who would have been “proud and shocked, I hope.”

British director Andrea Arnold’s teen drama “Fish Tank” and Park Chan-wook’s vampire romance “Thirst” shared the festival’s jury prize, the third-place award. Miss Arnold won the same prize with her first film, “Red Road,” in 2006, while Mr. Park won the festival’s second-place honor with “Old Boy” in 2004.

The directing award went to Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza for “Kinatay,” a harsh story centered on police inflicting bloody retribution on a prostitute who crossed them.

Chinese director Lou Ye’s “Spring Fever,” a tale of forbidden romance involving homosexual relationships, won the screenplay award for writer Feng Mei.

The prize for best first film went to Australian writer-director Warwick Thornton for “Samson and Delilah,” his love story about two teens living in an isolated aboriginal community.

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