Cannes 'Palm Dog' goes to mutt on trial

Last year's winner, Messi, was back on the red carpet this year (LOIC VENANCE)
Last year's winner, Messi, was back on the red carpet this year (LOIC VENANCE)

Griffon pup Kodi scampered to victory in the Cannes Film Festival's annual Palm Dog for best canine performer on Friday — proving he is not just a very good boy but a very fine actor too.

His film, "Dog on Trial", is exactly as its title suggests.

Cosmos is hauled before a judge for biting three people, and a young lawyer battles to save him from being put down in this bittersweet Swiss comedy.

But canine actor Kodi -- a former street dog from the south of France, found in a shelter -- steals the show with a paw-fect performance.

The film's director initially "told us Kodi wouldn't have much to do", recalled animal trainer Juliette Roux-Merveille.

But when she received the script, she realised Kodi would have to perform as many as 100 on-camera movements -- including a few new tricks.

"Kodi didn't know how to howl, so we played him the sound of a meowing kitten and it worked," she told AFP.

Kodi's main rival in the dogfight for Cannes-ine glory came from a Chinese film, "Black Dog".

In the movie, a former convict returning to his hometown in northwest China joins a dog patrol tasked with clearing stray mutts from the streets before the 2008 Olympics.

But when he tries to capture a black Jack Russell-greyhound cross, the dog proves a wily adversary and the pair strike up a bond.

Canine star Xin proved such a hit on set that she was adopted by her human counterpart, Taiwanese superstar Eddie Peng, after filming had finished.

A brief heated moment occurred at the Palm Dog ceremony, when the elegant calm of the glamorous beachside club was interrupted by a confrontation between the two rivals.

Coming face to face for the first time, the pair exchanged a few choice barks and yaps, before being led off by their owners and settling in for the ceremony.

- Messi scores again -

Palm Dog Woopets, founded in 2001, honours the best canine performance on the big screen.

Attracting dog lovers, from journalists to Hollywood stars including Quentin Tarantino, the unique and extremely kitsch prize is awarded by bone-a fide film critics, who also pay close attention to animal welfare on set.

Initially conceived as a bit of a joke, it has become a valuable way for Cannes movies to earn extra attention.

And this year, pooches have made their presence felt far beyond the event.

Last year's Palm Dog winner Messi -- star of "Anatomy of a Fall" -- was invited back to "interview" stars on the red carpet.

Equipped with a special 360-degree microphone and camera attached to his back, the Border Collie bounded up the steps to pose for photographers at the festival's opening ceremony.

It caps an extraordinary year for Messi, who went viral in selfies with the likes of Billie Eilish and Ryan Gosling at the Oscar nominees luncheon in Hollywood, and even appeared on the Academy Awards telecast.

And Demi Moore was accompanied on the red carpet at this year's Cannes premiere for "The Substance" by her Chihuahua dog Pilaf.

Moore has earned rave reviews for the body horror film -- a performance which required her to don layers of bizarre and hideous prosthetics.

Thankfully, at least one faithful companion could still identify her on set.

"My little dog... always recognised me," joked Moore. "That's all that counted."