Xan Brooks 

Cannes 2012: Amour’s love is justified, but why cold-shoulder Cosmopolis?

Xan Brooks: From the weather to the winner, an ominous chill was in the air at Cannes this year. Yet some of the jury's decisions suggest they may have been suffering from heat stroke
  
  

The 65th Cannes film festival dawned bright and sunny and then quickly went to hell in a handcart. The wind whipped up, the clouds hoved in and it proceeded to rain for three days straight. It was at this point that Michael Haneke arrived. He could hardly have timed his entrance better.

Amour – which screened on the middle Sunday, the rainiest of all – was not just the stand-out film in this year's Cannes competition. It also became emblematic of the festival as a whole; a warning of incoming cold-snaps and imminent storms; a reminder to shutter your windows and hold on to your loved ones.

Haneke's film tells the tale of Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), an elderly Parisian couple preparing for death. As befits a Haneke picture, it is pitiless and unsparing in its focus on the ugly business of dying, wheeling its heroine remorselessly from concert-hall to wheelchair to deathbed. For all that, the director's tender, respectful treatment of these characters (and the love that they share) provides a crucial palliative. One has the sense that Haneke is at least holding our hands as he draws us, on the gurney, towards the light.

If the night's other awards were a mixed-bag, that, again, reflects the fitful, faltering state of the festival at large. By all means raise a dram to Britain's Ken Loach (winner of the Jury Prize), but The Angels's Share is not the director's finest work. By the same token, Mexico's Carlos Reygadas has made more rigorous and satisfying pictures than Post Tenebras Lux, an exasperating stew of Jungian imagery that somehow bagged him the best director prize. Mads Mikkelsen gave a stirring performance in Thomas Vinterberg's crude but compelling The Hunt, and is a worthy-enough best actor. But whatever became of David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis (a bracing ice-bath of a movie) or Leos Carax's Holy Motors, far and away the most inventive and audacious film in competition? Do the jurors have something against white limousines?

At least, on the key decision, the judges got it right. Michael Haneke's Amour is a masterful movie from a director at the peak of his powers; a shattering drama about the rituals of parting, the ties that bind us, and the agony of loss. Amour is harsh, heartbreaking and a fully deserved winner of this year's Palme d'Or. Sorry Mr Haneke, but here's a happy ending, just for you.

 

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