CANNES, France – The Cannes Film Festival rewarded one of its favorite directors Sunday, as Michael Haneke won the top prize for a second time with his stark film about love and death, "Amour."
The Austrian director's powerful and understated film stars two French acting icons — 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva and 81-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant — as an elderly couple coping with the wife's worsening health.
Cannes jury member Jean Paul Gaultier praised the performances of the two actors and the "incredible connection" they established in the movie.
Haneke said he made the film because "I experienced something in my family that touched me." He thanked his wife and — in a rare personal comment — said he had promised her "we would never leave each other, like in the film."
Some viewers were surprised by the movie's frank humanity, coming from a master of tightly controlled cinema whose movies often contain sudden bursts of violence.
The director said his reputation for delivering shocks was unjust.
"Journalists always try to stick a label on directors," he said. "For a long time I've been the expert in violence."
But he said a film's style should match its subject matter, not its director, and "this film is about love."
Haneke has brought 10 films to Cannes over the years, including "Funny Games" and "Hidden." He previously won the Palme in 2009 for "The White Ribbon," and is only the seventh director to take the top prize twice.
The festival jury awarded the second-place Grand Prize to Matteo Garrone's Italian satire "Reality," while Ken Loach's whiskey-tasting comedy "The Angels' Share" won the third-place Jury Prize.
Both have won Cannes prizes before — Garrone took the Grand Prize for "Gomorrah" in 2008 and Loach won the Palme d'Or in 2006 for "The Wind That Shakes the Barley."
Mexico's Carlos Reygadas was named best director for his surrealism-tinged family story "Post Tenebras Lux."
The best actor prize went to Mads Mikkelsen as a man ostracized by his small-town community when he is accused of child abuse in "The Hunt."
Jury member Ewan McGregor said Mikkelsen had given a beautiful performance whose "wonder is in the subtlety ... but with complete conviction with his character."
Best actress was won jointly by Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, as friends separated by faith in Romanian movie "Beyond the Hills." Cristian Mungiu's drama of love and faith in a remote Romanian monastery also won the award for best screenplay.
The prize winners were chosen from among 22 contenders by a jury, led by Italian director Nanni Moretti, that included actors Ewan McGregor and Diane Kruger, director Alexander Payne and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Moretti revealed that none of the winners had been a unanimous choice, with several films sharply dividing the jury.
He said the biggest fights had been over Leos Carax's bizarre and episodic "Holy Motors," Ulrich Seidl's sex tourism drama "Paradise: Love" and Reygadas' "Post Tenebras Lux," whose title means "light after the darkness."
British director Andrea Arnold, a juror, said it was a film "which dared to fail and be brave about life."
The 12-day festival has seen plenty of glamour, with the likes of Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart appearing both on-screen and on the red carpet.
But in the movies, weighty themes dominated at an event whose French Riviera froth was subdued by several days of unseasonable rain and cold.
Despite a strong American flavor to the festival, U.S. films were shut out apart from Benh Zeitli's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which won the Camera d'Or for best first film.
The jury overlooked Pitt, who plays a cynical mob enforcer in Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly," and Kidman as a Southern femme fatale in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy."
Payne said it would be wrong to draw any conclusions about the state of a nation's cinema "based on one tiny snapshot."
Other much-praised performances at the festival included Marion Cotillard's tragedy-struck killer-whale trainer in "Rust and Bone," newcomer Paul Brannigan's scrappy Glasgow lad in "The Angels' Share," and Denis Lavant, as a performer who takes on a host of bizarre personas in "Holy Motors."
Associated Press Writer Hilary Fox contributed to this report.
Thomas Adamson can be reached at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless