Austrian director Michael Haneke won the Cannes film festival's top honour, the Palme d'Or, yesterday with 'Love' ('Amour'), his acclaimed tale of an elderly couple facing the inescapable, yet no less tragic, march of death.
Mr Haneke joins an elite group of two-time winners at the world's biggest film festival after 'The White Ribbon' won in 2009.
The simple yet moving tale set almost entirely inside a Paris apartment left audiences in tears, and it will prove a popular winner for a director considered one of the greatest in Europe today.
'Love' also won plaudits for its two main actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who are 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," Mr Haneke told the audience at the closing ceremony.
Critics were almost unanimous in their praise for 'Love'.
"Whatever his message, the spell of this incandescent film will be an elevating memory," Mary Corliss wrote in 'Time' magazine. "In the history of movies about love, 'Amour' lasts forever."
The awards, held amid thunder, lightning and rain on the French Riviera, brought to an end a 12-day blur of screenings, photo-shoots, parties and deal-making.
The Grand Prix runner-up prize was awarded to 'Reality', Matteo Garrone's examination of society's obsession with celebrity and reality TV.
British director Ken Loach won the Jury Prize, or third prize, for his charming Scottish whisky caper 'The Angels' Share'.
Mexico's Carlos Reygadas won the best director award for 'Post Tenebras Lux', a dreamlike exploration of the undercurrent of menace within Mexican society today.
Romania's Cristian Mungiu picked up the screenplay honour for 'Beyond the Hills' about a real-life exorcism gone wrong, and his two young stars, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, shared the best actress award.
Danish star Mads Mikkelsen won the best actor prize for his portrayal of a man wrongly accused of child abuse in 'The Hunt'.
On the sodden red carpet leading into the Grand Theatre Lumiere theatre, the cast and crew of 'Therese Desqueyroux' braved the rain for the world premiere of this year's closing film.
Annie Miller, the wife of the late director Claude Miller who was finishing the film when he died, was in tears as she walked up the stairs and turned to face the ranks of photographers.