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A chewy choice for the Palme - but what an extraordinary Cannes

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This was a Cannes that has turned out to be mostly about love — about how love is thwarted, how it is denied, how it is misinterpreted, but also how it is nurtured and how it survives.

Justine Triet's courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall was not my choice for the Palme d'Or but what an excellent film it is: deeply intelligent and very grownup, a film whose meanings recede even as you pursue them and given an arrowhead of emotional force by its German star: Sandra Hüller, playing a writer in a dysfunctional relationship.

It absorbed and gripped me like Billy Wilder's Witness for the Prosecution. Hüller's character is a woman whose unsatisfactory husband lies dead on the snowy path just outside their Alpine chalet having apparently fallen from the top window and hit his head on the way down.

Hüller on the red carpet. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Was he pushed? Did he get his head wound before he fell? The movie wants to anatomise that fall in a court of law, but also anatomise the emotional descent of a failing marriage, subject to the awful gravity of disillusion. Hüller's writer is starved of love: or is it rather that she cannot express what she feels in the ménage in which she finds herself. A bracingly excellent choice for the Palme.

The Grand Prix went to a movie that had nothing to do with love: Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest, tipped by many for the Palme; its success carries for British audiences an extra poignancy: it was adapted from the novel by Martin Amis who died last week, perhaps without ever seeing the finished print of this very impressive and disturbing adaptation. It is a film whose icy clarity and diamond-hard brilliance hit Cannes festivalgoers between the eyes — including mine.

This was an overwhelmingly fierce film about the evil of the Holocaust, choosing to centre on the Bunuelian surreal nightmare of the Auschwitz camp commandant and his wife and family living a gemütlich happy life in his private quarters with its handsome garden, while just over the wall, the horrific extermination is being carried out. I admit I was a little uneasy at the sleekness and pure style of the film — or do I mean stylishness — being deployed in this cause, and I preferred László Nemes's Son of Saul in Cannes in 2015. But it's a remarkable piece of film-making.

Jonathan Glazer receives the Grand Prix from Quentin Tarantino. Photograph: Stéphane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images

I admit to being a little unconvinced by the director's prize going to a film in the "foodie vein" which gives me indigestion. The Pot-au-Feu was directed by the estimable Tran Anh Hùng: the story of a passionate gourmand, played by Benoît Magimel, and his equally devoted love for his cook, played with sweet delicacy by Juliette Binoche. He did the vital work of a director in getting the best possible performances from these two formidable French leads, certainly — but you need a very sweet tooth for this grande bouffe of classy gastronomic taste.

Aki Kaurismaki's Jury prize for his gentle, sweetly eccentric romantic comedy Fallen Leaves is very gratifying. This is a thoroughgoing pleasure, if perhaps a slight one, and proof that Cannes juries are not wholly preoccupied with serious pictures. Not that this Finnish-set is without seriousness: it reminded its audience that Finland shares a border with Russia and this country is in the front line for any escalation of Putin's war.

Zar Amir-Ebrahimi presents Koji Yakusho with the best actor award. Photograph: Mohammed Badra/EPA

Koji Yakusho won the best actor prize for Wim Wenders's Perfect Days and clearly won the jury's hearts with his gentle, complex performance as the toilet cleaner who has a seraphically Zen acceptance of his modest life. In my view it was a performance which came to full flower with the final shot of his character at the wheel of his van, his face drifting between happiness and melancholy to Feelin' Good on his tape cassette player.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's garrulous, densely considered drama About Dry Grasses was another of his absorbing and Chekhovian works; it was given a particular fierceness by Merve Dizdar, who wins best actress as a disabled woman Nuray, whom the conceited male lead — a teacher in trouble for an inappropriate relationship with a pupil — has got his eye on. She radiates a kind of wounded intelligence and shrewd scepticism, amounting to contempt, for the male world in which she is surrounded, and the men who appear to be interested in her.

Merve Dizdar with her best actress award. Photograph: Daniel Cole/AP

It's a treat to see the screenwriting prize go to Yuji Sakamoto for his work on Hirokazu Kore-eda's marvellously complex, humane, demanding movie Monster about the relationship between two boys and how it is misunderstood by the adult world (though I admit I had been tipping Aki Kaurismaki's script for Fallen Leaves). It was another triumph for Kore-eda, who incidentally also won the Queer Palm for this film.

This was an outstanding Cannes competition and every single film on this list is to be savoured. A vintage year.

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