Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Colour
The film took the Croisette by storm at its first screenings on Wednesday night and has dominated the critics’ polls ever since, winning the Fipresci award already this week. In an unprecedented move Steven Spielberg and his jury also made a special inclusion for the young actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.
It is the first time that an out-and-out gay love story has received such an honour and chimes with France legalising gay marriage last week. Some commentators expressed doubts that the jury would opt for a film that is so edgy and overtly sexual with a three-hour running time (the longest of any title in this year's Competition).
In an emotional conclusion to the awards ceremony, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux joined Kechiche on stage to receive the prize.
Elsewhere the prizes were more predictable, with the Coen Brothers lauded with the Grand Prix for Inside Llewyn Davis (an award accepted by lead actor Oscar Isaacs as the Coens were in New York and unable to get back to Cannes in time). The brothers previously won a Palme for 1991's Barton Fink.
Veteran Bruce Dern (also an absentee) received best actor for his performance in the wistful road movie Nebraska, with director Alexander Payne accepting the award in his place. Expectations that Michael Douglas might turn up trumps for his Liberace role in Behind the Candelabra were trounced.
The best actress award went to Berenice Béjo for her heart-rending role in The Past as a Parisian woman seeking a divorce from her Iranian husband in Asghar Farhadi’s follow up to A Separation. Almost speechless with emotion, the star of The Artist invited her director to join her on stage.
Like Father Like Son by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, a delicate drama about two families who discover their sons were swapped at birth, received the jury prize and Chinese writer-director Jia Zhangke was rewarded with best screenplay for Touch Of Sin, a four-part drama based on real life incidents in contemporary China.
The real surprise of the evening was the best director gong for Mexican Amat Escalante for Heli, a tough family tale about drugs with gruesome scenes of torture which had been roundly disliked by many in the critical community.
The Camera d’Or jury, headed by Agnes Varda, presented its prize for best first film to Anthony Chen’s Ilo ilo, which premiered in Directors’ Fortnight. Chen said in his acceptance speech that his was the first film from Singapore to receive an award in Cannes.