Terrence Malick epic wins Palme d'Or in Cannes

Sun May 22, 2011 5:07pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Nick Vinocur

CANNES, France (Reuters) - U.S. director Terrence Malick won the Palme d'Or for best picture at the Cannes film festival Sunday for "The Tree of Life," a meditative, metaphysical epic starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

Only his fifth feature, the two-hour 20-minute contemplation on the origins of life and where we go when we die was among the favourites to walk off with the coveted award, one of the most prized in the movie calendar after the Oscars.

The semi-recluse did not personally accept his prize, which rewards a movie that has been in the making since 2005.

"He is personally a very humble guy, a very shy guy," said Bill Pohlad, a producer on the movie, when asked to explain the film maker's absence. No cast members were in attendance either.

"He very sincerely wants the work to speak for itself and keep back in his private life and not have it be about the ego and the celebrity."

There was an award for "Melancholia" directed by Denmark's Lars Von Trier, which remained in competition despite his shock expulsion from the festival for jokingly calling himself a Nazi and Hitler sympathiser during a press conference. U.S. actress Kirsten Dunst won the best actress category for her role in his powerful portrayal of a cosmic collision that ends all life, which critics said was a downbeat companion piece to Malick's more optimistic vision.

"Wow, what a week it's been for me!" said Dunst, likely to prove a popular winner for her portrayal of depressed Justine.

"This is an honor which is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for an actress and thank you to Cannes film festival for allowing our film to still be in competition.   Continued...