Who knows what sort of statement the Cannes jury wanted to make by awarding Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life the fest's biggest prize, the Palme d'Or. But such is the case today, and many are left scratching their heads trying to figure out why, exactly, the critically divided film was handed top honors. Was it because the jury (made up of many Hollywood heavyweights like Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman and Jude Law) wanted to praise the director for taking such big risks with his work? Was it because the film spoke to them in a way that unfortunately did not reach the majority of the audience? Was it because it's coming out in limited release this week, and ... well, Hollywood is Hollywood, right? Either way it'll be a fun debate and discussion as we move throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall awards season, with many curious to see if the film's impact on the Cannes jury spreads to other voting members, like AMPAS.
Meanwhile, another controversial film from the fest, Melancholia, also took home a big award for one of its stars, Kirsten Dunst, who took home the Best Actress prize. It's not so much that the film itself was controversial; instead, the controversy surrounded its director, Lars von Trier, who was banned from the festival following the film's press conference in which he randomly joked about being a Nazi and sympathizing with Hitler. Regardless of that mess, it's a big award for an actress who's been sort of floating on the periphery of Hollywood as of late, battling her own demons while trying to carve out a role for herself as other younger actresses squeeze themselves into a spot once owned by Dunst (who played love interest in the original Spider-Man trilogy). Dunst beat out the festival (and early Oscar) favorite, Tilda Swinton, whose role in We Need to Talk About Kevin was heavily buzzed-about throughout the fest.
Other winners included Nicolas Winding Refn as Best Director for Drive (due out later this year) and Jean Dujardin as Best Actor for The Artist. Check out a full list of the major awards below.
Palme d'Or: THE TREE OF LIFE
Grand Prix (tie): ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and THE KID WITH A BIKE
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (DRIVE)
Jury Prize: Polisse (MAIWENN)
Actor: Jean Dujardin (THE ARTIST)
Actress: Kirsten Dunst (MELANCHOLIA)
Screenplay: Joseph Cedar (FOOTNOTE)
Camera d'Or: Las acacias (Pablo Giorgelli, Argentina-Spain)
Palme d'Or, short films: "Cross" (Maryna Vroda)