CANNES, France: A sexually graphic lesbian love story, Blue is the Warmest Colour by French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche, clinched the top prize on Sunday (Monday in Manila) at the Cannes Film Festival in a pivotal year for gay rights.
Jury president Hollywood director Steven Spielberg said the tender coming-of-age tale about a 15-year-old French girl’s first love, an older woman, had been a unanimous choice.
In an unusual step, Spielberg awarded the prize to Kechiche as well as the film’s two stars, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, who joined him on stage to calls of “bravo” from the ceremony’s audience.
Tunis-born Kechiche, 52, dedicated the prize from the world’s top cinema showcase to the youth of France, and the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring.
“They also have this aspiration to live free, to express themselves freely and to love in full freedom,” he said, adding later that he hoped the film would also be distributed in socially conservative Tunisia.
Spielberg said the international jury including fellow Oscar winners Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz had had no qualms about the explicit sex on screen, praising the film team’s “courage,” and predicted a wide art-house run.
“For me, the film is a great love story and the fact that it is a great love story made all of us feel like we were privileged, not embarrassed, to be flies on the wall—privileged to have been invited to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning, in a wonderful way where time stood still,” he told reporters.
“We were absolutely spellbound by the brilliance of the performances of those amazing young actresses and all the cast, and especially by the way the director observed his players, the way he just let the characters breathe. We just all found it was a profound love story.”
Asked whether the film had a political message, the 19-year-old Exarchopoulos said it was first and foremost about love.
“If it becomes an ode to tolerance, that would be even more gratifying,” she added.
The runner-up award, the Grand Prix, went to Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis” starring Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and newcomer Oscar Isaac in the title role of a luckless folk singer in 1960s New York.
The Coens’ film Barton Fink won Cannes in 1991 and the brothers last entered the running in 2007 with “No Country for Old Men”.