Justine Triet's "Anatomy of a Fall" won the Palme d'Or at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in a ceremony Saturday that bestowed the festival's prestigious top prize on an engrossing, rigorously plotted French courtroom drama that puts a marriage on trial.
"Anatomy of a Fall," which stars Sandra Hüller as a writer trying to prove her innocence in her husband’s death, is only the third film directed by a woman to win the Palme d'Or. One of the two previous winners, Julia Ducournau, was on this year's jury.
Cannes' Grand Prix, its second prize, went to Jonathan Glazer’s "The Zone of Interest," a chilling Martin Amis adaptation about a German family living next door to Auschwitz. Hüller also stars in that film.
The awards were decided by a jury presided over by two-time Palme winner Ruben Östlund, the Swedish director who won the prize last year for "Triangle of Sadness." The ceremony preceded the festival's closing night film, the Pixar animation "Elemental."
Remarkably, the award for "Anatomy of a Fall" gives the indie distributor Neon its fourth straight Palme winners. Neon, which acquired the film after its premiere in Cannes, also backed "Triangle of Sadness," Ducournau's "Titane" and Bong Joon Ho's "Parasite," which it steered to a best picture win at the Academy Awards.
Triet was presented the Palme by Jane Fonda, who recalled coming to Cannes in 1963 when, she said, there were no female filmmakers competing "and it never even occurred to us that there was something wrong with that." This year, a record seven out of the 21 films in competition at Cannes were directed by women.
After a rousing standing ovation, Triet, the 44-year-old French filmmaker, spoke passionately about the protests that have roiled France this year over reforms to pension plans and the retirement age. Several protests were held during Cannes this year, but demonstrations were — as they have been in many high-profile locations throughout France — banned from the area around the Palais des Festivals. Protesters were largely relegated to the outskirts of Cannes.
"The protests were denied and repressed in a shocking way," said Triet, who linked that governmental influence to that in cinema. "The merchandizing of culture, defended by a liberal government, is breaking the French cultural exception."
"This award is dedicated to all the young women directors and all the young male directors and all those who cannot manage to shoot films today," she added. "We must give them the space I occupied 15 years ago in a less hostile world where it was still possible to make mistakes and start again."
After the ceremony, Triet reflected on being the third female director to win the Palme, following Ducournau and Jane Campion ("The Piano").
"Things are truly changing," she said.
Speaking to reporters, Triet was joined by her star, Hüller, whose performance was arguably the most acclaimed of the festival. (The festival encourages juries not to give films more than one award.) But "Anatomy of a Fall" did pocket one other sought-after prize: the Palme Dog. The honor given to the best canine in the festival's films went to the film's border collie, Snoop.
The jury prize went to Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s "Fallen Leaves," a deadpan love story about a romance that blooms in a loveless workaday Helsinki where dispatches from the war in Ukraine regularly play on the radio.
Best actor went to veteran Japanese star Koji Yakusho, who plays a reflective, middle-aged Tokyo man who cleans toilets in Wim Wenders' "Perfect Days," a gentle, quotidian character study.
The Turkish actor Merve Dizdar took best actress for the Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "About Dry Grasses." Ceylan's expansive tale is set in snowy eastern Anatolia about a teacher, Samet (Deniz Celiloğlu), accused of misconduct by a young female student. Dizdar plays a friend both attracted and repelled by Samet.
"I understand what it's like to be a woman in this area of the country," said Dizdar. "I would like to dedicate this prize to all the women who are fighting to exist and overcome difficulties in this world and to retrain hope."
Vietnamese-French director Tràn Anh Hùng took best director for "Pot-au-Feu," a lush, foodie love story starring Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel and set in a 19th century French gourmet château.
Quentin Tarantino, who won Cannes' top award for "Pulp Fiction," attended the ceremony to present a tribute to filmmaker Roger Corman. Tarantino praised Corman for filling him and countless moviegoers with "unadulterated cinema pleasure."
"My cinema is uninhibited, full of excess and fun," said Corman, the independent film maverick. "I feel like this what Cannes is about."
Saturday’s ceremony drew to close a Cannes edition that hasn't lacked spectacle, stars or controversy.
The biggest wattage premieres came out of competition. Martin Scorsese debuted his Osage murders epic "Killers of the Flower Moon," a sprawling vision of American exploitation with Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone. "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny," Harrison Ford’s Indy farewell, launched with a tribute to Ford. Wes Anderson premiered "Asteroid City."
The festival opened on a note of controversy. "Jeanne du Barry," a period drama co-starring Johnny Depp as Louis XV, played as the opening night film. The premiere marked Depp's highest profile appearance since the conclusion of his explosive trial last year with ex-wife Amber Heard.