Page last updated at 08:58 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 09:58 UK

Violence dominates at Cannes

By Emma Jones
BBC News, Cannes Film Festival

Charlotte Gainsbourg
Charlotte Gainsbourg defended the violence of her film Antichrist

Critics at Cannes have a reputation for toughness, but in 2009 they needed a stomach made of tungsten steel to watch some of the violent competition films.

Rape, scalping and mutilation had some film buffs running for the cinema exit doors - but these were the movies that the Cannes jury chose to reward this year.

Charlotte Gainsbourg was voted best actress for Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, which caused uproar among critics for a graphic scene of genital mutilation, and led to accusations of misogyny. The scene will reportedly be edited before it reaches the general public.

The star of the movie remained defiant.

"I'm very proud to have been in this film," Gainsbourg told a winners' press conference. "I know people have had different reactions to it, but he's a great artist."

Gory romp

Brilliante Mendoza from the Philippines was given the best director prize for Kinatay, which features the lengthy rape and murder of a prostitute.

"It's not a date movie, " jury member Hanif Kureshi told the press in defence of the award.

"You've just got to admire its heart. Having said that - it's not something I want to see again."

Then there was Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds in competition. A gory romp through an alternative history of World War II, the focus of the movie was on disposing of as many Nazis as possible in inimitable Tarantino style.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt brought Cannes to a standstill

It didn't win a film prize - but Christoph Waltz won the best actor award for his comically menacing SS officer.

Inglourious Basterds proved to be the highlight of this year's festival, even if it didn't win unanimous critical praise.

The sight of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the red carpet, along with Tarantino, brought the festival to a standstill and gave it a worldwide photo opportunity that had been sadly lacking.

Maybe the economic gloom meant studios were less willing to spend money on hospitality budgets for their talent - but the paparazzi found themselves kicking their heels.

Parties which promised Sir Mick Jagger or even Michael Jackson instead delivered Paris Hilton and Peaches Geldof - over and over again.

Little wonder that when Twilight star Robert Pattinson dropped into Cannes for a couple of days he was mobbed wherever he went.

And then there was the first snippet of Disney's 3D animation, A Christmas Carol, which was aired to the press.

Jim Carrey, who plays Scrooge, was flown in with Colin Firth for a photo opportunity in front of the famous Carlton Hotel.

Nearly 200 TV crews and photographers had hours to contemplate the irony as they waited in the sweltering heat in front of a winter wonderland scene, complete with snow and Christmas trees.

Movie stars may have seemed like an endangered species, but there was a bounty of women directors.

Brit disappointment

The fact that two - Jane Campion and Andrea Arnold - had made it into competition in a year where a woman, Isabelle Huppert, was chair of the jury, gave the press a whole new line of questions on sexual equality in cinema.

Arnold went on to win the Jury Prize for Fish Tank, a film set on an Essex housing estate and starring a teenager who was "discovered" on a railway platform.

But there was disappointment that another British entry, Looking for Eric by Ken Loach, wasn't recognised - despite critical praise and Eric Cantona starring in it.

Christoph Waltz
Austrian Christoph Waltz won the best actor award

Instead it was a non-controversial choice for the Palme D'Or - Austrian director Michael Haneke's White Ribbon.

Set in Germany at the outbreak of World War I, it was a surprise win. However, his last film, Cache, was expected to win the Palme and didn't, so it was his night of delayed triumph.

Cannes feels like two festivals - one for the film competition and the other for the celebrity circus going on around it.

The event succeeded in the first instance by getting reporters talking, but on the second it proved to be slightly "Inglourious".

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