CANNES, France -- U.S. director David Lynch's 'Wild at Heart,' a tale of violence and lustful romance in the American South, won the coveted Golden Palm award at the 43rd International Cannes Film Festival Monday.
The movie, which features highly charged sex scenes between Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern, drew gasps from the audience of critics when it was screened Saturday.
'I've been trying to get to the Cannes Film Festival for years,' a delighted Lynch told the crowd at closing ceremonies broadcast on French television.
French superstar Gerard Depardieu won the prize for best actor for his role as the antihero with the ugly nose in Jean-Paul Rappeneau's cinematic production of the classic French play 'Cyrano de Bergerac.'
Polish actress Krystyna Janda won the prize for best actress for her performance in the movie 'The Interrogation,' directed by her countryman Ryszard Bugajski.
Japanese director Kohei Oguri and Burkina Faso filmmaker Idriss Ouedraogo jointly received the festival's second prize, the Special Jury Prize, for their films 'The Sting of Death' and 'Tilai.'
'Hidden Agenda,' a controversial political drama about Northern Ireland directed by leftist British director Ken Loach, won the runnerup 'Jury Prize.'
American director Adam Davidson won the Golden Palm for a short film for his 'The Lunch Date.' Two other short films received runnerup jury prizes -- Barthelemy Bompard of France for 'Revestriction' and Maarten Koopman of the Netherlands for 'De Slaapkammer,' or The Sleeping Chamber.
Lynch's victory with 'Wild at Heart' proved the willingness of mainstream cinema critics to embrase the avant-garde wildness of Lynch's work, film critics said.
His previous films, 'Eraserhead,' 'Dune' and 'Blue Velvet' have either shocked or amused a growing cult audience. 'Wild at Heart,' on the other hand, is a riotous journey through the southern United States.
Depardieu's award for best actor was widely expected, with his magnificent performance as the long-nosed soldier who is thwarted in love the highlight of the festival.
Rappeneau's 'Cyrano de Bergerac' continues a recent French tendency to make pastoral movies such as 'Jean de Florette,' which also starred Depardieu. The prize further confirms's his status in the international film world and raises the profile of recent artistically admirable French films.
Richard Bugajski's 'The Interrogation,' which won Janda the prize for best actress, was shot in 1981. The film was banned in Poland, and Bugajski tried to distibute it on video cassettes through an underground system. The efforts to repress the film eventually resulted in Bugajski's defection to the United States.
Filmed at the start of the Solidarity independent labor movement, it tells the story of a young bar singer (Janda) arrested by the secret police and interrogated, beaten and tortured.
Critics described the film is a forceful condemnation of the methods used by the old communist regimes of Eastern Europe.
The film's screening at the Cannes Festival this year reflects the way Eastern European countries have returned to a dialogue and even a relationship with the international community.
There were nine Russian or East Bloc films in the official selection this year, with three of the Soviet films being recognized in the ceremonies presided over by Jury President Bernardo Bertrolucci.
Soviet director Gleb Panfilov won the Jury's Prize for best artistic contribution with his movie 'The Mother' or 'Matj.' Another Soviet director, Pvel Lounguine, won the Special Director's Award for 'Taxi Blues,' a Soviet-French production that is a Russian version of a beat movie about a jazz musician in Moscow who has a violent and tortured relationship with a taxi driver.
Finally, Vitali Kanevski's 'Don't Move, Die and Resuscitate' won the Golden Camera award for a director's best first film.
'Tilai,' the Burkina Faso film that shared the Special Jury Award, tells of the awful effects of incest. Similarly, its co-winner 'The Sting of Death' from Japanese filmaker Kohei Oguri represents another domestic nightmare where a man who betrays his wife is made to suffer psychological torment during World War II.
Besides the questions of artisitc integrity, political controversy erupted in Cannes and the United Kingdom this year over Ken Loach's 'Hidden Agenda.'
The film obliquely calls for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland, suggesting that the Irish should be allowed political self-determination. The British government is reportedly keen to supress the release of the movie, and some commentators said that may have been one of the reasons for its winning the Jury Prize.