CANNES, France -- A Danish film set in America but filmed in Sweden with stars from Iceland, France and the United States won the coveted Palme d'Or here Sunday night, at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival. Lars Von Trier's "Dancer In The Dark" picked up the top prize even though it got the most negative review in the recent history of Variety, the show biz bible. And its star, the Icelandic pop singer Bjork, won as best actress even though von Trier insists she is not an actress at all.
The movie stars Bjork as a mentally retarded punch press operator who is going blind. Catherine Deneuve, who presented the best film award, co-stars. Von Trier is the author of the Dogma 95 statement, which calls for films to be shot on video with available light and sound, and this is the first Dogma film to win the top prize.
In interviews all week he said Bjork was not an actress but played her character as if the story were the literal truth. In his acceptance speech, he said, "I know she doesn't believe it when I say it, but if you see Bjork, tell her I love her." This statement was even more odd since she arrived at the awards on his arm.
The best actor award went to the Hong Kong actor Tony Leung, for the bittersweet "In The Mood For Love," by Wong Kar-Wai, about neighbors who discover their spouses are having an affair, and then fall in love themselves.
The Grand Jury Prize, or second place, went to "Devils on the Doorstep," a long Chinese film about villagers who are given two Japanese soldiers to keep as prisoners. The Jury Prize, which is more or less third prize, although Cannes does not describe it that way, was shared by "Blackboard," about itinerant teachers, by the 20-year-old Iranian woman director Samira Makhmalbaf, and "Songs From The Second Floor," a surrealistic black comedy by Sweden's Roy Andersson.
Best director was Taiwan's Edward Yang, for "Yi-Yi," also known as "A One, A Two," a story of a failing marriage. The technical prize, for editing and cinematography, went to "In the Mood for Love," and a special honorary ensemble acting award went to the cast of "La Noce," a Russian film about a marriage.
The Iranian cinema, considered one of the most productive in the world right now, not only shared the jury prize, but saw two of its films tie for the Camera d'Or, which is given for the best first film. They were "A Time For Drunken Horses," by Bahman Ghobadi, and "Djomeh," by Hassan Yektapanah.
There are three major prizes at Cannes given by separate juries. The Critics' Week was won by the Mexican film "Love Is A Bitch." The Un Certain Regard section, a sidebar of the official competition, was won by the American film "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her." And the International Critics Prize went to the Japanese film "Eureka."
The awards were presented in a star-spangled ceremony that lasted just a fourth as long as the Oscars, and included actor James Caan, a presenter, thanking the festival for naming itself after him.