CANNES, France - In the end, it was all very civil, according to Steven Spielberg, president of the 66th Cannes Film Festival jury, characterizing the decision to award the Palme d'Or to the French love story Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele over the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis.
The latter took the Grand Prix, a runner-up prize, for the Coens, who were not present for the ceremony but whose long shadow has been felt here since they won for best picture, director, and actor with Barton Fink in 1991.
In a ceremony that barely ran 50 minutes and that tended toward the cute, overseen by French actress and mistress of ceremonies Audrey Tautou, it came down to the same two films that the media had placed bets on, with the U.S. corps leaning more toward the Coens, the Europeans toward director Abdellatif Kechiche's story of young lesbian love and lust set in the French city of Lille.
About a young art student from the comfortable upper class (played by Lea Seydoux, daughter of a prominent French film producer), and a working-class girl still in school (Adele Exarchopoulos), the Golden Palm winner is as much about failing to bridge class barriers as about a teen crossing sexual boundaries.
The jury gave the best actress prize to Berenice Bejo (The Artist) in Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's The Past, playing a woman still emotionally split between her ex-husband, who arrives from Iran to finalize their divorce, and a younger French Arab lover.
In a two-horse race between Michael Douglas for Behind the Candelabra and Bruce Dern, who turns 77 next week, for his comeback role as a man suffering from dementia in Alex Payne's Nebraska, the nod went to Dern.
The one surprise was the best director prize, awarded to Mexican director Amat Escalante for Heli, noted for its graphic cruelty in its depiction of a country ripped apart by the drug trade - including a scene of a drug thug torturing a young man and setting fire to his genitals.
Other prizes included best screenplay for the only Chinese film in the competition, A Touch of Sin by Jia Zhangke, which weaves together the stories of a miner, a sauna receptionist, and two others to portray China as growing wealthy at the expense of its values. And the jury prize, honorable mention, went to Like Father Like Son by Korean director Hirokazu Koreeda.
"It's no accident that the awards were so close to what journalists were expecting," said jury member and Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, a past winner of the Palme d'Or (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days). "It's just common sense. . . . We just let ourselves be moved by the films we were watching."