Explicit lesbian love story wins Palme d'Or at Cannes

Director Abdellatif Kechiche and his film's leads Lea Seydoux (left) and Adele Exarchopoulos (right) have claimed the festival's top award. Photo: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

A Cannes jury led by Steven Spielberg has chosen a sexually-explicit lesbian love story as the winner of the film festival's prestigious Palme d'Or.

La Vie d'Adele, released to British audiences as Blue is the Warmest Colour, was directed by French-Tunisian Abdellatif Kechiche.

The trio were overcome with emotion after collecting the Palme d'Or, one of the most coveted film awards besides the Oscars. Credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

While earning rave reviews at Cannes, critics had wondered whether its no-holds-barred sex scenes would deny it being awarded the festival's top prize.

But Hollywood powerhouse Spielberg hailed it as the standout feature and backed it to be accepted by the often-prudish mainstream cinemas, saying:

I think it will get a lot of play ... I think this film carries a very strong message, a very positive message.

Inevitably, its story of a troublesome same-sex relationship has seen it likened to Ang Lee's 2005 hit Brokeback Mountain, a tale of forbidden love between two male cowboys.

La Vie d'Adele topped a field of 20 films full of sex, violence and anguish.

Yet the American Coen brothers picked up the runner-up spot with their quirky comedy Inside Llewyn Davis, about a struggling New York folk singer.

The jury, including Steven Spielberg, Nicole Kidman and Ang Lee, had a pick of 20 films to choose from for the top award.

French actress Berenice Bejo won the best actress award for her performance as the wife in Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's tense domestic drama Le Passe (The Past).

American veteran Bruce Dern won best actor for his role in Alexander Payne's film Nebraska. He plays an ageing, alcoholic father who goes on a road trip across the US state with his son to collect a lottery prize.