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It's been a great week for Michael Haneke's "Amour." Not only was it confirmed yesterday as Austria's official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race, but it played to predictably rapturous responses at Telluride -- reheating the Cannes buzz enough for us to place it in our Best Picture predictions on the sidebar. (We've had it listed in Best Director for a few months now.)
Now comes further good news. Sealing its status as the de facto critics' darling of 2012 so far, it was also just emerged as the winner of the FIPRESCI Grand Prix -- an annual award voted on by the 200-plus members of the international critics' federation, given to the best film premiered in the last 12 months. Haneke now joins Pedro Almodovar and Paul Thomas Anderson as the only two-time winners of the Grand Prix, which has been awarded since 1999. The award is presented every year at Spain's San Sebastian Film Festival in late September -- which is why it isn't detemined on a calendar-year basis.
It's the most global of all critics'awards, and a mighty prestigious one at that. (Check out the list of previous winners below to see what formidable company Haneke's latest is in -- including his own 2009 winner "The White Ribbon.") That said, thanks in part to its large votership, it's not the most imaginative of prizes: "Amour" is the fourth Cannes Palme d'Or winner to take the honor in six years. (The FIPRESCI prize also flags up the likelihood of "Amour" sweeping the European Film Awards; the last four European winners of the award have all done so.)
More significant than the award itself, perhaps, is how it underlines "Amour"'s status as a consensus title; it might not be everyone's favorite film of the year, but there's scarcely a breathing soul who has seen and failed to admire it. That could make it a formidable player in the year-end US critics' voting: I wouldn't be surprised to see the New York or Los Angeles circles handing it some of their top hardware. (Mind you, history is not on its side: the New Yorkers haven't handed their top prize to a foreign-language film since 1975.)
Meanwhile, expect it to pick up secondary Best Foreign Language Film awards like fleas -- it could just gather enough momentum for many members to feel obliged to vote for it, as was the case with the unanimously venerated "A Separation" last year. Could the unthinkable happen, and that troublesome award actually go to the critical favorite two years running? We're a long way from that yet.
For context, here's the full list of previous FIPRESCI Grand Prix winners:
1999 “All About My Mother,” Pedro Almodóvar
2000 “Magnolia,” Paul Thomas Anderson
2001 “The Circle,” Jafar Panahi
2002 “The Man Without a Past,” Aki Kaurismäki
2003 “Uzak,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan
2004 “Notre Musique,” Jean-Luc Godard
2005 “3-Iron,” Kim Ki-duk
2006 “Volver,” Pedro Almodóvar
2007 “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” Cristian Mungiu
2008 “There Will Be Blood,” Paul Thomas Anderson
2009 “The White Ribbon,” Michael Haneke
2010 “The Ghost Writer,” Roman Polanski
2011 “The Tree of Life,” Terrence Malick
2012 "Amour," Michael Haneke
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