'Son's Room' wins Cannes prize

Italian film of family tragedy wins festivals top honor

— Italian director Nanni Moretti's "The Son's Room" won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, while the French-language film "The Piano Teacher" took second place and both acting honors.

Moretti's stirring account of a happy family shattered by the death of a teen-age son received the Palme d'Or.

"The Piano Teacher," Austrian director Michael Haneke's dark tale of a sexually repressed music instructor seduced by a student, won the grand prize, the festival's second-highest honor.

Isabelle Huppert and Benoit Magimel, stars of "The Piano Teacher," received the best actress and actor awards.

"The fact that this film got three prizes is incredible," Haneke said. "I am very, very moved."

After accepting the Palme d'Or, Moretti emotionally thanked everyone involved with the film and threw his arms in the air in elation.

"The Son's Room" features a character named Giovanni living a near-perfect life with his wife and two children. Then his teen-age son is killed in a freak diving accident.

Moretti, who plays the lead, intelligently examines how people cope with the worst that can happen to a family. "I am very happy when people tell me this is both a hard and a sweet film," Moretti said.

Huppert was the Cannes jury's unanimous choice for best actress.

"I thank Bach, Schubert and Mozart," said Huppert, who performed some of the film's piano pieces herself.

Best-director honors were split between Joel Coen for his film-noir thriller "The Man Who Wasn't There," co-written with his brother, Ethan, and David Lynch for his enigmatic Hollywood tale "Mulholland Drive."

One of the festival's most high-profile films, "Moulin Rouge" starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, was ignored by the jury. The musical tragedy, directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann, was one of the festival's more provocative films, with some critics raving about it and others trashing it.

The Golden Camera award for first-time directors went to Canada's Zacharias Kunuk for "Atanarjuat The Fast Runner," the story of two Eskimo brothers who challenge the rule of an evil shaman.

The screenplay award went to Bosnia's Danis Tanovic for the irreverent war satire "No Man's Land," which he also directed.

The jury awarded a prize for technical achievements to Tu Duu-Chih, sound designer for two films in competition, "Millennium Mambo" and "What Time Is It There?"

Director and actress Liv Ullmann headed the 10-member Cannes jury, which included directors Terry Gilliam and Edward Yang and actresses Julia Ormond and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

This year's festival was not a huge hit among film critics or the spectators who gather outside the red-carpet arrivals area for a glimpse of the stars. Critics generally found the lineup of movies unexciting compared to last year's event, which included Lars von Trier's divisive musical "Dancer in the Dark," winner of the Palme d'Or, and such acclaimed films as Yang's "Yi Yi," Ullmann's "Faithless" and the Coen brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" And celebrity watchers complained that top stars were scarce this year. Those who did turn up included Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

For the closing-night film, spectators were treated to visits by Melanie Griffith, who was honored at Cannes with a lifetime achievement award, and her husband, Antonio Banderas; Milla Jovovich; and Nick Nolte. Kidman provided a festival highlight when she wandered off the red carpet at the "Moulin Rouge" premiere to shake hands with fans.


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