The good, the mad and the ugly

There’s nothing quite like the Cannes Film Festival, a place where big egos and big mouths are placed under the scrutiny of the media spotlight when it comes to celebrities behaving oddly. And stupidly. And desperately. Here are a few such memorable moments.

I’m not there

Reclusive United States director Terrence Malick won the Palme d’Or at the festival for The Tree of Life, a surreal family drama (and, according to one critic, a “work of cosmic woo-woo”) starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Many had wondered if the 67-year-old, considered to be one of Hollywood’s shyest and most pedantic directors (producing only five films in 38 years), would turn up to face the crowds if he won. He had initially asked for the film to be excluded from competition.

He was absent at the awards ceremony on Sunday, after which jury president Robert De Niro said the epic had “the size, the importance, the intention, whatever you want to call it, that seemed to fit the prize”.

Springtime for Hitler

Denmark’s Lars von Trier, director of Melancholia, was expelled from the festival for making an awkward joke about his sympathies for Adolf Hitler.

Winners of this year’s Cannes film festival offered up a mix of films that ranged from arthouse to mainstream block buster. Forgetting the off-screen moments of controversy, stars busied themselves with posing on the red carpet for the world’s media. Watch our slideshow.

Von Trier was ejected from the awards after he stated at a press conference that he had “sympathy” for Hitler.

After trying clumsily to explain this comment, and expressing admiration for Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, he concluded “Okay, I’m a Nazi,” and joked that his next film could be called The Final Solution. Um.

It all seemed to be a very bad joke, told awkwardly and carried too far, but the damage had been done.

The festival press suggested that Von Trier had “pulled a Mel Gibson”, referring to Gibson’s anti-Semitic outbursts in the past.

Which brings us to …

Mad(der) Max

Mel Gibson, Hollywood’s pariah after racist remarks and reports of domestic violence, attempted to breathe life into his ailing career with his new film, The Beaver, directed by and co-starring Jodie Foster. The film depicts a man who, after going off the rails in public, has to rebuild his life. Sound familiar?

Foster seemed keen to promote Gibson, complimenting his performance and his approach to the delicate subject matter. She refused to be drawn into discussions about his erratic behaviour. “Only he can explain that. But I do know the man that I know, who is somebody who has been a friend for many years, who is probably the most-loved actor in Hollywood.” The “most-loved” actor has, so far, failed to draw American audiences to the film, which has underwhelmed at the US box office. Perhaps European audiences will be more forgiving.

Kiss kiss, bang bang

Cannes is known for its focus on films that may not be box office gold on mainstream circuits. One film that bridged the gap between European art houses and the mainstream was Drive, by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Oscar-nominated US actor Ryan Gosling.

The action film won the best director award for Refn. It also won him a juicy kiss on the lips from Gosling, a publicity stunt that has dominated many photographic round-ups of the event and led to all sorts of boring speculation on the internet about the nature of their relationship.

The curious case of Sean Penn

If there is any actor at the festival who deserves an award for the most unexpected roles of the year, it would have to go to Sean Penn. In Palm d’Or winner Tree of Life he plays Brad Pitt’s son, an odd role for someone three years Pitt’s senior.

In This Must Be The Place, he plays Chayenne, an ageing rocker, complete with lipstick, black wig and lashings of smudgy eyeliner, who travels across America in search of the Nazi soldier who tormented his father. Despite not winning an award at the festival, he has received a great deal of critical acclaim for the role. And if Robert Smith ever needs to take a break, The Cure now know who to call.

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Lisa Van Wyk
Lisa van Wyk is the arts editor, which somehow justifies her looking at pretty pictures all day, reading cool art and culture blogs and having the messiest desk in the office. She likes people who share her passion for art, music, food, wine, travel and all things Turkish. She can't ride a bike, but she can read ancient languages and totally understands the offside rule.

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