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The Festival de Cannes ended tonight as it usually does, with the awarding of the prizes in the main competition. One final trip up the red carpet to the Lumiere Theater for the glitteratti, while the press observed a live feed in the smaller Debussy Theater just next door.
Watching from the Debussy, the media assembled there tried to guess who would win which awards as various film teams walked the carpet: The festival will invite prize winners to come to the closing ceremony so they know they've won something; they just don't know what.
The Palme d'Or went to Amour by Michael Haneke, who won the same award just three years ago for his stern drama The White Ribbon. This time the two lead actors in the film, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, were brought onstage with Haneke to accept the award, which made perfect sense.
This riveting story of an old couple dealing with the wife's debilitating stroke stayed with me throughout the festival, and it is a combination of the work of all three - actors and director - that makes Amour a brilliant achievement.
Other prizes included the directing award to Carlos Reygadas for his surreal story of a cosmopolitan family trying to live life in the countryside, Post Tenebras Lux, and the screenplay award to Romanian director Cristian Mungiu for Beyond the Hills.
The two lead actresses in this drama about religious devotion andan exorcism gone awry, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, also shared the best performance by an actress award, while the best performance by an actor prize went to Mads Mikkelsen as a kindergarten teacher wrongly accused of abuse in Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt.
Other special prizes were handed out as well: The Jury Prize went to Ken Loach for his socially progressive comedy The Angels' Share, and Matteo Garrone won the Grand Prize for Reality, about one man's quest for reality TV stardom. Perhaps these two citations can be seen as second and third place to Haneke's Palme d'Or. And the Camera d'Or, for best first feature film, went to Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, a fable of the bayou.
And then it was time to party. The Closing Night party, on the Majestic Beach, was somewhat low rent. But then, all the prize-winning filmmakers were having a private sit-down dinner a little further down the Croisette. The entrance to the dinner was crowded with hundreds of bystanders hoping for a peek at as many celebrities as possible.
Over at the party entrance, there wasn't much of a mob scene; it seemed understood that if you wanted to see the winners, you had to jostle for a spot with the masses outside the Agora restaurant. But inside the Majestic Beach venue, the party was really a let-your-hair down event, a chance for some guests, filmmakers, and festival staff to eat, drink and dance - to pop music of the 70's, 80's and 90's - which is always fun.
As I left the party, workers were already starting to remove the signs of the festival. Tomorrow everyone else - festival guests and staff - will pack up their bags and leave town. And just a few months to breathe before work on next year's edition starts. The fun never ends.
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