Cannes 2012: Haneke wins again as Hollywood stars disappoint

Festival favourite nabs Palme d'Or for second time, but new films from Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s are slated

If this year's Cannes Film Festival proved anything – other than the film industry's inexplicable note of surprise at the notion of rain on the Cote d'Azur – it was that there are Cannes People and then there is everyone else. It wasn't enough that the programme this year was full of Cannes veterans; it took some experience of the Croisette to nab a prize.

Winner... Michael Haneke (Copyright: PA)Following a premiere for his latest, “Amour”, Michael Haneke became only the second director in history to win the Palme d'Or – Cannes's top honour – for two consecutive films, having previously won in 2009 for “The White Ribbon”. A tender portrayal of an elderly married couple, “Amour” had been a firm critical favourite. But dissenting voices hoping for a little controversy were keen to point out that it was the safe choice for the Nanni Moretti-headed jury, which included Ewan McGregor, Diane Kruger and - of all people - Jean Paul Gaultier.

Those voices didn't need to look too far for controversy, though. “Reality” from director Matteo Garrone, who had a big Cannes hit with “Gommorah” in 2008, took home the Grand Prix, and represented two extremes: where “Amour” had topped most critics' lists of this year's competition selection, “Reality” failed to impress most. “Gommorah”, incidentally, took home the Grand Prix as well, making Garrone another winner of the same Cannes prize for two consecutive films.

Continuing the love-in for Cannes People, Mads Mikkelsen took Best Actor for Thomas Vinterberg's “The Hunt”. He'd last walked the Croisette as recently as 2009, as the star of that year's closing night film. And the Jury Prize went to “The Angels' Share”, from Ken Loach, a veritable fixture of the festival. He won the Palme in 2006 for “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”, and “The Angels' Share” is the third film of his in a row to come to the festival.

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Another Palme winner, Cristian Mungiu, director of “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”, picked up the last of the main filmmaking prizes, for Best Screenplay, for his latest, “Beyond the Hills”. In fact, the only names not familiar to the festival were the joint recipients of Best Actress, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, who both star in Mungiu's film, making their feature debuts.

Considering this year's festival had been hailed for its – slightly misleading – propensity for American film, it's a surprise none from the United States made it to the awards. Amongst the unrecognised, Lee Daniels's grand misstep “The Paperboy”, which gained infamy for a scene in which Nicole Kidman urinates on Zac Efron to dull the pain of a jellyfish sting. For the withering attentions of critics going into Cannes's second week, it was one indignity too far.

Dissappointed... Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis

David Cronenberg's “Cosmopolis” fared only a little better. Following Robert Pattinson on a journey across a future Manhattan in search of a haircut, the film was variously “agonisingly self-conscious” and “sinuously compelling,” proving Cronenberg has lost none of his power to beguile and befuddle in equal measure. Meanwhile, Pattinson's girlfriend, Kristen Stewart, came to Cannes with Walter Salles's adaptation of Kerouac's “On The Road”, with most critics agreeing that it might have been better for Salles to keep driving.

Lady in red... Kristen Stewart (Copyright: PA)There was a little more praise for Jeff Nichols's “Mud” and for Wes Anderson's festival-opener “Moonrise Kingdom”, but an overall American indifference seemed to continue through the other two Hollywood titles. “Lawless” and “Killing Them Softly” are both American productions with Australian directors – John Hillcoat and Andrew Dominik – and both went through eleventh-hour title changes. They were praised for their strong performances - in “Lawless” from Shia LaBoeuf, Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce, and in “Killing Them Softly” from Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins – including a pair of career-defining breakthroughs from Jason Clarke and Scoot McNairy respectively. But critics remained divided on whether the films themselves were strong enough to compete with the best.

In the end, then, this year's Cannes was perhaps a more muted affair than last year. There wasn't a grand headline-grabbing event like “Tree of Life”, nor a film as many fell in love with as “The Artist”. But as much as the festival will always celebrate Cannes People, its great joy is in its unpredictability. And in that regard, it didn't disappoint.