CANNES, France (AP) — "Look at these people, this wildlife."
As the partying journalist of Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty," Toni Servillo was surveying Rome's colorful nightlife, but he might as well have been contemplating the Cannes Film Festival. The 66th edition of the Cote d'Azur extravaganza drew to a close Sunday, awarding the sensual, heartbreaking lesbian romance "Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele" the festival's top honor, the Palme d'Or.
The Cannes Film Festivale is a 12-day circus of perpetual red-carpet flashbulbs, beachside soirees and, yes, a feast of some of the finest, wildest movies the world has to offer. The most exotic creatures weren't the high-heeled ones parading the Croisette, they were the ones gracing Cannes' pristine movie screens.
This year, the festival was a particularly captivating coterie of rare birds. There was Tilda Swinton as a white-haired, centuries-old vampire (Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive"); Joaquin Phoenix as a 1920s pimp, sticking out his jaw like Marlon Brando (James Gray's "The Immigrant"); a sequin-covered Michael Douglas as Liberace (Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra"); a battered and bloodied, but still cool Ryan Gosling (Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives"); and the disabled but acrobatic dancer Souleymane Deme (Mahamat-Saleh Harouns "Grigris").
There was literal wildlife, too, including a cat named Hercules (the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis"), a vanishing giraffe ("The Great Beauty") and an unfortunate pooch caught up in Mexico's brutal drug war (Amat Escalante's "Heli"). Cannes, alas, is a dog eat dog world.
A strong, deep slate of films in competition left some mystery before Steven Spielberg's jury named "The Life of Adele" tops of the festival. The three-hour coming-of-age tale, by Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche, emerged as a landmark film not for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes, but for its tender intimacy. It won the Palme on the same day thousands marched in Paris protesting France's recent legalization of gay marriage.
The global stage of Cannes immediately catapults Kechiche to greater international renown, inducting him into the prestigious group of Palme d'Or winners, from Francis Ford Coppola to Terrence Malick.
But this year's festival boasted many breakout stars, including the two daring actresses of "Life of Adele," Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, who, in a twist, also shared in the Palme d'Or. As a bitter, sarcastic 1960s folk singer in "Llewyn Davis," newcomer Oscar Isaac also shined in Cannes' spotlight.
Familiar faces turned in some of their best work including Berenice Bejo, as a single mother juggling a new man and an old one in Asghar Farhadi's shifting domestic drama "The Past"; Kristin Stewart Thomas, as Lady Macbeth meets Donatella Versace in the stylish Bangkok noir "Only God Forgives"; and Bruce Dern, as a gruff, aging father in Alexander Payne's black-and-white Midwest road trip "Nebraska."