Abdellatif Kechiche's teen-lesbian coming-of-age story "Blue Is the Warmest Color" has won the 2013 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, a jury headed by Steven Spielberg announced on Sunday.
Based on the graphic novel "Le Bleu est une couleur chaude" and titled "La vie d'Adele - Chapitre 1 & 2" in French, the film debuted only three days before the end of the festival and immediately became one of the biggest critical hits of Cannes -- and the only real unexpected breakthrough among the competition titles.
It also drew attention because of its graphic and extended sex scenes between its unknown lead actress, Adele Exarchopoulos, and Lea Seydoux. It is both the most sexually explicit Palme winner and the first gay-themed love story to win.
The film was acquired for U.S. distribution by Sundance Selects, which will no doubt have its hands full with the MPAA ratings board.
In an unprecedented move that sidestepped the Cannes rule that the big winner can't also receive an acting prize, the jury awarded the Palme d'Or to Kechiche and to Exarchopoulos and Seydoux.
The Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" and Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Like Father, Like Son" won the Grand Jury Prize and the Jury Prize, the Cannes equivalent of second and third-place honors.
Bruce Dern (left) won the best actor award for his role in Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," and Berenice Bejo was named best actress for Asghar Farhadi's "The Past."
In something of a surprise, Mexican director Amat Escalante won the best director award for the violent drug-war movie "Heli."
The screenplay award went to Chinese writer-director Jia Zhangke for "A Touch of Sin."
Anthony Chen's "Ilo Ilo" won the Camera d'Or as the best first feature of the festival. This year, 18 films were eligible from the Un Certain Regard, Directors' Fortnight, International Critics' Week and Midnight sections.
"Safe," by Moon Byoung-Gon, won the award for best short.
While the jury spread the wealth and most of the festival favorites received awards, films that went home empty-handed included Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty," James Gray's "The Immigrant" and Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra," which debuts on HBO Sunday night.
Michael Douglas was considered a strong best-actor candidate for his role as Liberace in that film, as was Oscar Isaac for his title character in "Inside Llewyn Davis" (pictured right). Dern's win made "Nebraska" the only film in the competition to win more than one award.
Unlike last year, when Michael Haneke's "Amour" was a strong favorite going into the ceremony, this year's competition seems wide open, with a number of films considered possible Palme d'Or winners.
The last two Palme d'Or winners, "Amour" and Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," have gone on to receive Oscar nominations for Best Picture. Other winners over the years have included "Taxi Driver," "Apocalypse Now," "Paris, Texas," "sex, lies and videotape," "Pulp Fiction," "Dancer in the Dark," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The White Ribbon."
Soderbergh, the Coens and Roman Polanski, represented in this year's field with "Behind the Candelabra," "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Venus in Fur," are all past winners of the Palme. Soderbergh won for "sex, lies and videotape" (1989), the Coens for "Barton Fink" (1991) and Polanski for "The Pianist" (2002).
The high-profile jury was headed by Steven Spielberg and included actors Christoph Waltz, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Auteuil and Vidya Balan and directors Ang Lee, Cristian Mungiu, Naomi Kawase and Lynne Ramsay.
Palme d'Or: "Blue is the Warmest Color," Abdellatif Kechiche with Adele Exarcholoulos and Lea Seydoux
Grand Prix: "Inside Llewyn Davis," Joel and Ethan Coen
Prix du Jury: "Like Father, Like Son," Hirokazu Kore-eda
Prix de la Mise en Scene (Best Director): Amat Escalante, "Heli"
Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay): Jia Zhangke, "A Touch of Sin"
Camera d'Or (Best First Feature): "Ilo Ilo," Anthony Chen
Prix d'interpretation masculine (Best Actor): Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
Prix d'interpretation feminine (Best Actress): Berenice Bejo, "The Past"
Palme d'Or, Short Film: "Safe," Moon Byoung-gon
Special Mentions: "37o4 S," Adriana Valerio; "Whale Valley," Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson