The canine cast of a film about a soft-spoken Italian dog groomer who gets revenge on a local heavy won the Palm Dog prize at the Cannes festival Friday.
“Dogman” has been hailed as a brutal modern parable of the little guy who can take no more, with critics raving about its lead actor, Marcello Fonte.
But it is the Great Dane and chihuahua who feature in the film that got tails wagging on the jury of the Palm Dog, which judges the best performance at the festival by a pooch.
“Dogman” is also one of the favourites for Cannes top prize the Palme d’Or.
“It is its large cast of dogs that steal the show,” said Palm Dog founder Toby Rose of the film, directed by Matteo Garrone of “Gomorrah” fame.
Fonte, the film’s human star, turned up at the award ceremony to toast the victory with a stand-in for the chihuahua, who in the film is put into a freezer “in a chilling scene worthy of Hitchcock”, said The Guardian’s critic Peter Bradshaw, one of the Palm Dog judges.
The film’s producer, Jeremy Thomas, said their triumph was “proof that W.C. Fields got it wrong when he said, ‘Never work with dogs and children’.”
The jury also handed a special prize to the CGI-generated pink Pekingese “fluffy puppies” in the wacky satire “Diamantino”, which features a footballer not dissimilar to Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the romp, which won the best film in the Critics’ Week section of the festival, the striker’s career is destroyed by visions of the dogs blocking his way as he bears down on goal.
Writer Vanessa Davies and her pug, Patrick, were also honoured with the Palm Dogmanitarian Award for her forthcoming Disney family comedy named after her pet.
“It’s a wonderful real life story and a worthy winner for celebrating the bond between canines and humans,” Rose added.
The Palm Dog — which has been awarded at Cannes since 2001 — is the world’s best-known award for dogs on screen.
Past winners include Uggie from the Oscar-winning “The Artist” and Ken Loach for casting a three-legged dog named Shae in his Palme d’Or-winning “I, Daniel Blake”.