Director's shame casts pall over classy Cannes

Fri May 20, 2011 10:14am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Nick Vinocur

CANNES, France (Reuters) - The Cannes film festival stumbled toward its close on Friday, still reeling from the shock expulsion of Danish director Lars Von Trier which has overshadowed an otherwise impressive year for movies and stars.

The world's biggest cinema showcase closes on Sunday with a glitzy awards ceremony, where the winner of the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture and other prizes will be revealed from a competition lineup of 20 features.

But the movies have been reduced to a sideshow since Wednesday, when Von Trier joked about being a Nazi and Hitler sympathizer in an outburst which prompted the festival to take the unprecedented step of throwing him out.

Von Trier told Reuters that the decision came as a shock and reiterated that he was sorry if he had caused offense. He added, however, that his ignominious exit from a festival where he won the Palme d'Or in 2000 could enhance his credentials as a rebel.

His competition movie "Melancholia," starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as sisters facing annihilation in a cosmic collision, remains in competition, meaning that, in theory at least, it could win prizes including the Golden Palm.

For many movie-goers, the scandal cast a pall over a festival that should have been remembered for its bold film selection, cast of A-listers on the red carpet and a market where the business of buying and selling movies was booming.

"Being a wine-lover, I'll say the 2011 Cannes is a good vintage, with a lot of variety," said Annette Insdorf, film professor at Columbia University.

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, Woody Allen and jury president Robert De Niro graced the red carpet, and were joined by a host of other music and movie luminaries on the whirlwind party circuit.   Continued...

<p>Director Lars Von Trier (C) and cast members Kirsten Dunst (L) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (R) arrive on the red carpet for the screening of the film "Melancholia" in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>