“The White Ribbon,” a meticulous examination of patriarchal domination, won the Palme d’Or at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival on Sunday. Directed by the Austrian-born Michael Haneke and shot in black and white, the much-admired film — a foundation story about National Socialism set in a rural pre-World War I German community — turns on a series of violent events that appear to be the work of some children. In 2001 Mr. Haneke won the Grand Prix (effectively second place) for his harrowing drama “The Piano Teacher,” which starred Isabelle Huppert, president of this year’s competition jury.
The Grand Prix, also announced on Sunday, went to “A Prophet,” a pitch-perfect film from the French director Jacques Audiard about a young inmate who becomes a master criminal during a prison stretch. The film was the critical favorite throughout the festival, and Mr. Audiard received a standing ovation from the audience when he mounted the stage. Far more surprising was the Jury Prize (third place), which was split between “Fish Tank,” a slice of Brit-grit realism from Andrea Arnold, and the neo-exploitation vampire flick “Thirst,” from the South Korean director Park Chan-Wook. Both were booed by the press watching the show via live broadcast.
The director Terry Gilliam, here with the noncompetition film “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” delivered some funny onstage shtick by pretending to accept the directing prize, which he was meant to bestow. (“Terry, you don’t receive, you give,” the host explained, promising that Mr. Gilliam could have something next year if he didn’t create a scandal.) The actual winner of the director award was Brillante Mendoza, from the Philippines, whose grisly, widely loathed shocker, “Kinatay” (“Slaughter”), hinges on a man who doesn’t prevent a murder. The screenwriting award went to Mei Feng for “Spring Fever,” a rather baggy if underappreciated drama about young Chinese malaise.
Ms. Huppert handed the prize for best actress to Charlotte Gainsbourg, who delivers a wild, fearless performance as a grieving mother in “Antichrist,” an English-language film from the Danish director Lars von Trier. It’s easy to imagine that Ms. Huppert and her fellow juror, the actress Asia Argento, both ferocious screen performers, were impressed with the intensity of Ms. Gainsbourg’s performance, which involves a fair amount of nudity and some frantic (and graphic) backwoods masturbation.
The best-actor award for the Austrian Christoph Waltz, who plays a Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino’s World War II movie, “Inglourious Basterds,” made everyone happy. Speaking in French, English and German, Mr. Waltz called the film an “unbelievable experience,” thanked his co-star Brad Pitt, along with the creator of Mr. Waltz’s “unique and inimitable” character, Colonel Landa. His voice colored with emotion, he addressed Mr. Tarantino directly: “You gave me my vocation back.”
Ms. Huppert presented the director Alain Resnais — who turns 87 next month — with a “lifetime achievement award for his work and his exceptional contribution to the history of cinema.” He should have won something as well for his dazzling competition entry, “Wild Grass.” Wearing sunglasses (bright lights bother him), a dark suit, a red shirt and a magnificent swirl of white hair, Mr. Resnais took the stage and was greeted with a sustained standing ovation. He expressed his gratitude to the jury and the festival and asked his cast to stand and receive applause before he was cut short by the music.
The Caméra d’Or for best first feature, awarded by another jury, went to an Australian film by Warwick Thornton that was largely below the critical radar, “Samson and Delilah,” a teenage love story set in the Outback.
Despite the on-screen carnage that was amply rewarded by Ms. Huppert and her jury, the festival put on its usual glittering show that for 12 days made cinema seem as if it mattered to the world. News media attendance and spirits might have been down, but the sun came out as did the jostling crowds, red-carpet stars and distributor wallets.
“This is the center of independent films from around the world,” Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, said on Saturday. Unlike many Americans he stays until the end because one never knows what might turn up: last year his company bought the Palme winner, “The Class,” which was screened on the last day. This year it bought “The White Ribbon” and “A Prophet.”
Although big Hollywood still turns up at Cannes (the Pixar movie “Up” opened the festival), the studios don’t show much work here unless Clint Eastwood has a new one. All too often quality is now the province of their specialty divisions, some of which were recently shut down. That makes older, established companies like Sony Classics and newcomers like Oscilloscope Laboratories even more important. IFC Films, for one, has made a nice habit of buying some of the best movies here, and this year grabbed “Antichrist” and Ken Loach’s “Looking for Eric,” a crowd-pleaser about a postman who, in the midst of a meltdown, conjures the philosophizing form of his favorite soccer star. It’s no wonder that IFC Entertainment’s president, Jonathan Sehring, characterized the festival as “very, very good.”
But while Hollywood movies are not much in abundance, the stars still come out, if somewhat fewer this year. Most of the American headliners (“Brad!” “Angelina!”) turned up at the premiere of “Inglourious Basterds.” They soon disappeared, but Mr. Tarantino was everywhere. He danced on the red carpet, chatted in English on French television and praised Mr. Mendoza’s “Kinatay.” Mr. Mendoza, a rising talent who was at Cannes last year with the rowdy “Serbis,” could use all the help he could get with this movie. A morality tale that he wields like a blunt instrument, “Kinatay” hinges on the inaction of a police-academy student while a prostitute is murdered and dismembered. The movie had its respectful fans, but many others fled the theater.
By closing night a lot was still in play, which may portend good news for American movie lovers. Oscilloscope, the company founded by the Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, bought “Wendy and Lucy” last year, and this year picked up another film, but has not announced its title. This was Mr. Yauch’s first time at Cannes.“I was glad to see everyone in tuxes and ball gowns going up the red carpet,” he said in an e-mail message from New York on Sunday. “I was afraid that the photos I’ve seen of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant would have faded into history like everything else, and that people would be walking into premieres in shorts, T-shirts and Crocs. So I was impressed when I saw a man in a suit turned away because he was wearing sneakers. Perhaps Cannes is the last bastion of dignified decadence.”