Michael Haneke's ''Amour'' won the prestigious award at the 65th Cannes Film Festival

By Owen Gleiberman
June 08, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

This year, the 65th Cannes Film Festival climaxed in an unusual sort of horse race. Just about everyone there, including me, agreed on the best movie we saw. It was Amour, Michael Haneke’s tenderly devastating drama in which two legendary stars of the European cinema, Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist) and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour), play Georges and Anne, a Parisian couple in their 80s whose bourgeois well-being is disrupted when Anne, without warning, begins to lose her faculties. Haneke, the German filmmaker best known for his creep-outs (Funny Games) and freak-outs (Caché) took the grand prize at Cannes just three years ago for The White Ribbon, his eccentric pre–World War I cross between an Ingmar Bergman movie and Village of the Damned. And that’s why many of us speculated that it was too soon for him to win again.

In the end, however, the haunting power and brilliance of Amour proved simply undeniable, and the jury members (including director Alexander Payne, designer Jean Paul Gaultier, and actor Ewan McGregor) gave Haneke the award a second time. In doing so, they helped launch a movie that, when it’s released by Sony Pictures Classics Dec. 19, should rule the art-house audience in a way that few Cannes winners of recent vintage have. At once a love story, a horror movie, and the most honest film about old age ever made, Amour is sure to move and disturb you, to break your heart and lift it.