Michael Haneke's quiet and emotional "Amour" has won the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the Cannes jury announced on Sunday.
A favorite of Cannes viewers from the moment it debuted at the festival a week ago, "Amour" was considered one of the favorites for the Palme. Haneke won in 2009 for his previous film, "The White Ribbon"; this victory makes Haneke only the second director to win the top Cannes award for back-to-back films.
Bille August also did it for "Pelle the Conqueror" and "The Best Intentions" in 1988 and 1992. August, though, made a TV-miniseries version of the latter film before turning it into the feature.
"Amour" follows an elderly couple as one of them has a stroke and gradually deteriorates. In announcing the award, jury president Nanni Moretti singled out the film's two stars, iconic French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.
At TheWrap, Sasha Stone called the film "absolutely brilliant," and wrote, "every tiny moment between them feels precious, essential, like it can't be skipped over."
The film will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in the United States.
(Photo of Haneke at the awards ceremony by Pascal le Segretain/Getty Images)
The second and third-place awards, the Grand Prix and the Prix du Jury, went to more lighthearted films. "Reality," Matteo Garrone's film about a fishmonger obsessed with getting on a reality television show, won the Grand Prix, while British director Ken Loach won the Prix du Jury for a rare comedy, "The Angels' Share."
Shut out of the awards picture entirely was Leos Carax's strange and divisive "Holy Motors," which some observers had tapped as a serious Palme d'Or contender. Also overlooked: Jacques Audiard's well-received "Rust and Bone," with Marion Cotillard.
The main competition contained an unusually large number of English-language films, eight, but "The Angels' Share" was the only film in English to win an award. David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly," Jeff Nichols' "Mud," Walter Salles' "On the Road," John Hillcoat's "Lawless," Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" and Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" went unrewarded.
Acting awards went to Mads Mikkelson for playing a kindergarten teacher accused of child abuse in "The Hunt" and Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan for playing teenage girls whose friendship is tested when one enters a convent in "Beyond the Hills."
Carlos Reygadas won the directing award for his surreal and reportedly autobiographical "Post Tenebras Lux," while Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu won the screenplay honor for "Beyond the Hills," a rare film to win more than one award at Cannes.
The Camera d'Or, which goes to a first-time director, went to Benh Zeitlin for the Sundance sensation "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which will be released this summer by Fox Searchlight. The film was not in the main competition at Cannes, but the Camera d'Or is open to directorial debuts in all sections of the festival.
The field for most of the awards was made up of the 22 films in the main competition.
The ceremony was hosted by Berenice Bejo, one of the stars of last year's Cannes entry (and Oscar winner) "The Artist."
The jury was headed by Italian director Moretti, and also included directors Alexander Payne, Andrea Arnold, Hiam Abbass and Raoul Peck, actors Ewan McGregor, Diane Kruger and Emmanuelle Devos and fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier.
Many of the 22 films in competition have North American distribution deals in place, including "Amour" and "Rust and Bone" (Sony Classics), "Moonrise Kingdom" (Focus Features), "Killing Them Softly" and "Lawless" (The Weinstein Company), "Holy Motors" (Indomina), "Reality" (Oscilloscope), "In Another Country" (Kino Lorber), and "On the Road," "The Angels' Share," "Like Someone in Love" and "The Taste of Money" (IFC, Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight).
Over the years, Palme d'Or winners have included "Taxi Driver," "Apocalypse Now," "Paris, Texas," "Sex, Lies and Videotape," "Pulp Fiction," "Dancer in the Dark," "The Pianist," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The White Ribbon," as well as a number of films that had very little impact in the U.S. market.
Two of last year's winners, "The Tree of Life" (Palme d'Or) and "The Artist" (Jean Dujardin, Best Actor) went on to receive Academy Award nominations, and "The Artist" won five Oscars, including Best Picture.
The only film ever to win both the Palme d'Or and the Oscar for Best Picture is "Marty," from 1955.
Palme d'Or: "Amour," Michael Haneke
Grand Prix: "Reality," Matteo Garrone
Prix du Jury: "The Angels' Share," Ken Loach
Prix de la Mise en Scene (Best Director): Carlos Reygadas, "Post Tenebras Lux"
Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay): "Beyond the Hills," Cristian Mungiu
Camera d'Or (Best First Feature): "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Benh Zeitlin
Prix d'interpretation masculine (Best Actor): Mads Mikkelsen, "The Hunt"
Prix d'interpretation feminine (Best Actress): Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, "Beyond the Hills"
Palme d'Or, Short Film: "Silence" ("Sessis-Be Deng"), L. Rezan Yesilbas