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Tragedy, pain and horror triumph at film festival

IT was a bad year for business, a so-so year for celebrities, but a good year for movies at the Cannes Film Festival.

There were fewer dealmakers in the market, fewer stars on the red carpet - but on screen, the selection was one of the strongest in recent years.

Top prize, the Palme d'Or, went to Austria's Michael Haneke for "The White Ribbon," an austere study of evil in pre-World War I Germany, while the runner-up was French director Jacques Audiard's prison drama "A Prophet."

"I feel beautiful," said Haneke. "This is the best prize you can get in the cinema, so I'm delighted."

The festival began buoyantly on May 13 with Pixar's 3-D animated adventure "Up" before plumbing depths of tragedy, pain and horror.

Danish director Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" gave audiences graphic scenes of genital mutilation that drew reactions from respect to revulsion. The jury awarded Charlotte Gainsbourg the best-actress award for her terrifying turn as a grieving mother who descends into madness.

Filipino director Brillante Mendoza took the directing honor for the police corruption drama "Kinatay," which horrified many viewers with its explicit scenes of murder and dismemberment.

"Sometimes good art is hard," said British writer Hanif Kureishi, one of the nine-member jury, although he admitted "Kinatay" was "not something I want to see again."

South Korea's Park Chan-wook depicted a priest grappling with a moral dilemma after he is turned into a vampire in the stylish and energetic "Thirst."

The film shared the third-place jury prize with British director Andrea Arnold's gritty teen drama "Fish Tank."

On a lighter note, Britain's Ken Loach made an atypically sunny comedy, the football-themed "Looking for Eric," while Spain's Pedro Almodovar offered a color-drenched melodrama about love and loss in "Broken Embraces," starring a radiant Penelope Cruz.

Quentin Tarantino rewrote history with "Inglourious Basterds," which had Brad Pitt leading a band of Jewish Nazi-hunters during World War II. Christoph Waltz won the best-actor prize for his scene-stealing role as a Nazi officer.

China's "Spring Fever" took home the screenplay prize for Mei Feng.


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