CANNES, France – The tender, sensual lesbian romance “Blue Is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele” won the hearts of the 66th Cannes Film Festival, taking its top honor, the Palme d’Or.

The jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, took the unusual move of awarding the Palme not just to Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to the film’s two stars: Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. The three clutched each other at the Sunday ceremony as they accepted the award, one of cinema’s greatest honors.

“This film is universal, as it’s a love story, so it’s not important if it’s two women,” said the 19-year-old Exarchopoulos. “If it can show everyone tolerance, than that’s gratifying.”

Exarchopoulos stars in the French film as a 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when she falls in love with an older woman, played by the 27-year-old Seydoux. The three-hour film caught headlines for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes, but bewitched festival-goers with its heartbreaking coming-of-age story.

Premiering at Cannes just days after France legalized gay marriage, “Life of Adele” was hailed as a landmark film for its intimate portrait of a same-sex relationship.

“The film is a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning,” said Spielberg. “The director didn’t put any constraints on the narrative, on the storytelling. He let the scenes play as long as scenes play in real life.”

Cannes’ feting of “Life of Adele” came the same day tens of thousands of protesters in Paris marched against the new gay marriage law. Seydoux called the film “a witness to our time.”

“I am going to do everything for this film to get to Tunisia and other countries that aren’t fully democratic that might have a problem with the scenes in this film,” said Kechiche whose films include (“Games of Love and Chance,” “The Secret of the Gran”). “I hope this recognition can help.”

The Coen brothers’ 1960s folk revival “Inside Llewyn Davis” earned the Grand Prix, Cannes’ second most prestigious award.

The jury prize, Cannes’ third top award, went to Kore-eda Hirokazu’s gentle switched-at-birth drama “Like Father, Like Son.”

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