Malick win and Von Trier ban share Cannes limelight

Mon May 23, 2011 3:18am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Nick Vinocur

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Terrence Malick won the Palme d'Or in Cannes for "The Tree of Life," but the 2011 film festival will be remembered above all for the shock expulsion of Danish director Lars Von Trier for his Hitler jokes.

The 55-year-old Dane, a previous winner of the coveted top prize in 2000, confessed to being surprised by a ban which many movie goers at the world's biggest cinema showcase questioned.

The unprecedented move by Cannes organizers cast a shadow over the entire festival, widely praised as a strong year with top directors, audacious movies, a long list of A-listers on the red carpet and a bustling market place.

"I think it has been a strong Cannes, although it's not been perhaps as good as we'd all hoped when we saw the selection on paper," said Jay Weissberg, critic at trade publication Variety.

"I do think Von Trier has overshadowed this festival, but I believe in a very temporary way. It's bad for Cannes, but I don't think this is something that will last for long.

"As usual, Cannes needs a talking point and they got it in a much bigger way than they had been anticipating. I thought it was really rather ridiculous. Most people think they went too far and that a warning would have sufficed."

The notoriously provocative Von Trier, presenting his movie "Melancholia," launched into a monologue at a press conference on Wednesday during which he joked he was a Nazi, sympathized with Hitler and declared Israel a "pain in the ass."

Kirsten Dunst, who picked up the best actress prize on Sunday at the closing ceremony for her role in the film, squirmed with embarrassment during the briefing and Jewish groups in France and the United States complained.   Continued...