After a wide-open and strong Cannes Film Festival that was thrown into disarray by Lars von Trier's controversial comments, Robert De Niro's jury has awarded the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, to Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life."
The reclusive Malick did not show up at the ceremony to accept the award.
The long-awaited, much-delayed epic dominated festival talk for the first week, receiving scattered boos but mostly rapturous reviews after its Monday debut. Two days later, though, von Trier grabbed center stage at the press conference following his film.
Kirsten Dunst won the festival's Best Actress award for her performance in von Trier's "Melancholia." It was the one award for the well-reviewed film, whose chances of winning the bigger prizes were torpedoed when von Trier was banned from the festival for his comments about Hitler and the Nazis.
This marks the second consecutive time when an actress has been rewarded for putting up with the controversial Danish director. Two years ago, Charlotte Gainsbourg won the same award for "Antichrist," which was voiciferously booed at the festival.
French actor Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor award for his performance in Michel Hazanavicius' crowd-pleasing silent, black-and-white comedy "The Artist," which was picked up for distribution by the Weinstein Company.
The Dardenne brothers' "The Kid With a Bike" and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" tied for the Grand Prix, while Mainwenn's "Polisse" won the Prix du Jury. Those are essentially the festival's second and third-place awards.
Nicolas Winding Refn won the Best Actor award for the action-packed Ryan Gosling vehicle "Drive," while Joseph Cedar won Best Screenplay for the Sony Classics pickup "Footnote."
The field also included Aki Kaurismaki's "Le Havre," Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In," Julia Leigh's "Sleeping Beauty," Lynne Ramsay's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and Paolo Sorrentino's "This Must Be the Place."
In addition to De Niro, the members of the jury were actors Jude Law, Uma Thurman and Martina Gusman (an Argentinian actress/producer), "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas, Norwegian critic and writer Linn Ullman (the daughter of Liv Ullman and Ingmar Bergman), Hong Kong director Johnnie To, Chinese producer Nansun Shi and director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, from Chad.
Of the 20 films in competition, half have American release deals in place. Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In" and Joseph Cedar's "Footnote" will be released by Sony Pictures Classics; "The Tree of Life" by Fox Searchlight; "The Artist" by the Weinstein Company; "Melancholia" by Magnolia; "Drive" by FilmDistrict; and "House of Tolerance," "The Kid With a Bike," "Poliss" and "Sleeping Beauty" by Sundance Selects.
"Footnote," "The Artist" and the four Sundance Selects titles were acquired during the festival; the other deals were in place before Cannes.
Palme d'Or: "The Tree of Life"
Grand Prix: (tie) "The Kid With a Bike" and "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia"
Prix du Jury: "Polisse"
Prix de la Mise en Scene (Best Director): Nicolas Winding Refn, "Drive"
Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay): Joseph Cedar, "Footnote"
Camera d'Or (Best First Feature): "Las Acacias"
Prix d'interpretation masculine (Best Actor): Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Prix d'interpretation feminine (Best Actress): Kirsten Dunst, "Melancholia"
Palme d'Or (short film): "Cross Country"