Abdellatif Kechiche's lesbian romance "Blue Is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele" has won the Palme d'Or, the top honor of the Cannes Film Festival.
The jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, took the unusual move of awarding the Palme not just to Kechiche, but also to the film's two stars: Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. The three clutched each other as they accepted the award, one of cinema's greatest honors.
"The film had a beautiful French youth that I discovered during the long time filming the movie," said Kechiche at the festival closing ceremony Sunday. "It taught me a lot about the spirit of freedom."
Exarchopoulos stars in the film as a 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when she falls in love with an older woman, played by Seydoux. The three-hour film caught headlines for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes, but bewitched festival goers with its intimate coming of age story.
"The film is a great love story that made us all feel privileged to be invited to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak," Spielberg told reporters. "The director didn't put any constraints on the narrative."
The Palme d'Or, which the jury awards to its choice from the 20 films in competition at Cannes, had been viewed as a relatively wide-open race ahead of Sunday's awards. But the festival audience gave a standing ovation to the "The Life of Adele," which critics polls had ranked highest.
The jury otherwise spread the awards around.
The Coen brothers' 1960s folk revival "Inside Llewyn Davis" earned the Grand Prix, Cannes' second most prestigious award. The film's breakout star, Oscar Isaac, accepted the award.
Best actor went to 76-year-old Bruce Dern for Alexander Payne's father-son road trip "Nebraska." Berenic Bejo, the "Artist" star, won best actress for her performance as a single mother balancing a visiting ex-husband and a new fiancé in Asghar Farhadi's "The Past."
The jury prize, Cannes' third top award went to Kore-eda Hirokazu's gentle switched-at-birth drama "Like Father, Like Son." Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante took best director for his brutal drug war drama "Heli."
Singaporean director Anthony Chen won the Camera d'Or, the award for best first feature, for his "Ilo Ilo." Set during the Asia financial crisis in 1997, the film is about a Singaporean family and its new maid.
Said Spielberg: "We crossed the world through these films."