CANNES, France - The 67th Cannes Film Festival awards its top prizes Saturday with a Canadian prodigy, a Russian corruption critic, Belgian brothers, a Turkish husband-and-wife team and a British veteran tipped for glory.
Eighteen contenders are in the running for the coveted Palme d'Or gong for best picture, but unlike previous races, no obvious winner emerged during the 12-day event in this French Riviera resort.
"Two years ago 'Amour' crushed everything in sight, last year 'Blue is the Warmest Colour' crushed everything in sight," Jean-Philippe Guerand of Film Francais magazine told AFP, referring to the last two winners.
"This time around there are no such overpowering films," he added, looking to a nailbiter finish at the world's biggest cinema showcase.
Trade magazine Variety predicted Andrey Zvyagintsev's "Leviathan", a searing attack on abuse of power in contemporary Russia which has already run afoul of the country's culture minister, would take home the main prize.
Its chief critic Justin Chang noted that the film's ripped-from-the-headlines relevance coupled with its dramatic power made it a good bet to win the favour of the jury led by New Zealand director Jane Campion.
Audiences also swooned over Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan's audacious drama laced with wicked humour, "Mommy". He would, at 25, become the second youngest Cannes winner ever, just behind Louis Malle.
The film's star Anne Dorval, playing a feisty woman grappling with a violent, bipolar son, is also a favourite for the best actress prize.
US movie website Indiewire called the picture "amazingly alive" and "one of the most vibrant, intoxicating, illuminating films of this or any Cannes".
Germany's daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung hailed Dolan as a "wunderkind" and a worthy successor to the late iconoclast Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Reviewers also embraced "Two Days, One Night" by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne of Belgium, starring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as a suicidal woman forced to fight to save her job.
It would be the naturalistic filmmakers' third Palme d'Or, a Cannes record, after "Rosetta" in 1999 and "The Child" in 2005.