Titane, a wildly imaginative film about a serial killer by French director Julia Ducournau, won the top Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival, jury head Spike Lee told a ceremony Saturday before the award was slated to be revealed.
In a moment of confusion when asked in French to reveal what one of the prizes was, the U.S. film director read off a card and prematurely announced the best movie winner.
Ducournau, 37, became only the second woman to win the top award at Cannes. Her violent film, in which the heroine has sex with a car, split critics, with some praising its originality but others put off by its frantic and messy approach.
Described as a "body horror" movie and based around a character with a titanium plate in her head, the film impressed some critics with its energy.
Ducournau had previously found critical success with Raw in 2016. The only previous female winner of Cannes' top award was Jane Campion who shared the prize in 1993 for The Piano.
The world's biggest film festival returned to the French Riviera after a 2020 hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Stars happy to be back
The event drew stars such as Matt Damon and Sharon Stone to the red carpet, with moviemakers and actors delighted to be back, though attendance was down from figures of previous years.
Other big winners revealed when results were officially announced included Leos Carax, picked as best director for Annette, a musical about two artists caught in a twisted love affair.
Hamaguchi Ryusuke and Takamusa Oe of Japan won best screenplay for their tale of heartbreak and loss, Drive My Car. Renate Reinsve won best actress for her role in The Worst Person in the World by Joachim Trier, a modern-day romantic comedy that was a big hit with critics.
Compartment no6 by Juho Kuosmanen, about a woman who embarks on a train journey across Russia, tied with A Hero by Iran's Asghar Farhadi, which features a prisoner faced with a moral quandary, for the Grand Prix distinction.
Caleb Landry Jones, who starred in Australian film Nitram, won best actor.
The Jury Prize, another runner-up award for best movie, went to two films: Ahead's Knee by Israel's Nadav Lapid and Memoria by Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul.