A compelling tale of an octogenarian couple's devotion and struggle took the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last night, elevating its director into an élite band of Palme d'Or winners.
Michael Haneke's film Amour, the favourite to win at the festival, duly landed the top spot for the Austrian director, who also won the award in 2009 with The White Ribbon.
Haneke now joins a select club of two-time Palme laureates - including Francis Ford Coppola, Denmark's Bille August, and the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
Haneke's simple yet moving story, set almost entirely inside a Paris apartment, left Cannes audiences in tears and proved a popular winner for a director considered one of the best in Europe.
Amour also won plaudits for its two main actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, both in their 80s.
"A very, very big thanks to my actors who have made this film. It's their film. They are the essence of this film," Haneke said at the closing ceremony.
He added he made the film because "I experienced something in my family that touched me".
Last night's second prize, the Grand Prix, went to the Italian Matteo Garrone for his film Reality - a critique of reality television's ability to create celebrities. Ken Loach's The Angels' Share was awarded the Prix du Jury. Loach's comedy-drama centres about four men sentenced to community service who plan to steal priceless malt whisky.
Collecting his award, he said: "I would like to send our solidarity to those in dark times resisting the programmes of austerity and cuts."
Carlos Reygadas was named best director for his surrealist story of a Mexican family, Post Tenebras Lux.
Acting prizes last night went to the Danish Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt and jointly to Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan for the Romanian movie Beyond the Hills.
This film, directed by Cristian Mungiu, also won Prix du scénario for its screenplay. Other winners included Benh Zeitlin, who won the Caméra d'Or for first-time director for his film Beasts of the Southern Wild.
The jury, led by the Italian director Nanni Moretti, included Ewan McGregor, Diane Kruger, the British director Andrea Arnold and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Some critics touted the Russian war drama, In the Fog, by the Ukranian director Sergei Loznitsa, as a possible top prize-winner.
But all agreed Lee Daniels' thriller The Paperboy - in which Nicole Kidman's character urinates on Zac Efron's character - was this year's French Riviera dud.
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