This is rare, nuanced storytelling, anchored by one of Brad Pitt’s career-best performances and remarkable technical elements on every level. It’s a special film.
CANNES, France — Tommy Lee Jones walked away from the 58th Cannes Film Festival here Saturday night as a double winner, after his film “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” won him the award as best actor, and the screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga also was honored. The movie stars Jones as a Texas cowboy who kidnaps the border patrolman (Barry Pepper) who has murdered his Mexican friend and forces him on a long journey to rebury the corpse in the man's hometown.
Another double winner was American director Miranda July, whose “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” the story of several dreamy, goofy, unlikely romances and sexual adventures, won the Camera d'Or as the best first film in any of the festival's categories. July, who wrote and starred, also won the Critics' Prize. She shared the Camera d'Or with the Sri Lankan film “The Forsaken Land,” by Vimukthi Jayasundara, about a soldier tormented by a mistaken killing.
The top prize, the Palme d'Or, went to “L'Enfant,” by the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, whose film is about a teenage couple who have a child and try to raise it while still essentially children themselves. It's the subtle story of how responsibility imposes itself on the couple almost despite themselves.
The Grand Jury Prize, or runner-up, went to the veteran American indie director Jim Jarmusch for “Broken Flowers,” which stars Bill Murray in one of his best performances, as a lonely retired millionaire who learns he might have had a child 20 years earlier, and goes on a solemn but comic search through his past, visiting women who could plausibly have been the mother.
The prize for best actress went to Hana Laszlo, an Israeli comedienne in her first dramatic role, in “Free Zone,” by Israel's Amos Gitai. She plays a cab driver who drives an American (Natalie Portman) to Jordan, on a journey during which they both make unexpected discoveries.
A Special Jury Prize went to "Shanghai Dreams," by Wang Xiaoshuai of China; it's the story of a family relocated to the provinces during the social experiments of the 1960s, and a father who wants them to return to the city.
The award for best director went to Michael Haneke for “The Hidden,” starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche in the story of a family torn apart by the arrival of anonymous videos showing someone has them under surveillance.
The Palme d'Or ceremony is held with admirable brevity; the arrival of guests on the famous red-carpeted staircase lasts longer than the awards, which this year included the surprise appearance of Oscar winner Hilary Swank to join her “Million Dollar Baby” co-star and fellow Oscar winner Morgan Freeman in presenting the Palme d'Or.
The jury, headed by Emir Kusturica of Serbia-Montenegro, included the actresses Nandita Das of India and Salma Hayek of Mexico, the American author Toni Morrison, the French directors Agnes Varda and Benoit Jacquot, the Spanish actor Javier Bardem, the German director Fatih Akin, and the director John Woo, of Hong Kong and Hollywood.
Backstage after the awards, there was a jumble of celebration, with the Americans perhaps realizing that only at Cannes would Tommy Lee Jones meet Jim Jarmusch, and Miranda July bond with Hilary Swank. When I interviewed Jones on Wednesday during an American Pavilion presentation, he said "Three Burials" began when he was on a Texas deer-hunting trip with the writer Arriaga and the producer Michael Fitzgerald. "We said, hell, we got enough talent in the cab of this pickup truck to make us a movie," he said, "and that's when we started."
Reminded of this story, Fitzgerald smiled and said, “That's how we started, all right, but it took a long time to get this movie made, and it wasn't exactly easy.”
Awards given Saturday at the 58th Cannes Film Festival, selected by a nine-member jury headed by Sarajevo-born filmmaker Emir Kusturica:
Grand Prize: "Broken Flowers,," Jim Jarmusch (United States)
Jury Prize: "Shanghai Dreams," Wang Xiaoshuai (China)
Best Director: "The Hidden," Michael Haneke (Austria)
Best Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (United States)
Best Actress: Hanna Laslo, "Free Zone," Israel
Best Screenplay: "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," Guillermo Arriaga (Mexican screenwriter, U.S. film)
Golden Camera (first-time director): "Me and You and Everyone We Know," Miranda July, (United States), and "The Forsaken Land," Vimukthi Jayasundara (Sri Lanka)
Best short film: "Wayfarers," Igor Strembitskyy (Ukraine)
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