No prizes for the bookies' favourite Dogville was only the biggest of many surprises at a Cannes closing ceremony attended more by leathery old Cannois, than superstars, or the giants of auteur cinema.
In a competition regarded by critics as the worst in many years, and a year swayed by political considerations, the jury was never likely to have followed conventional logic or common expectations.
Indeed, the jury sought special permission from the festival to give both the best direction prize and the Palme d'Or to Elephant and Gus van Sant, a director who having done mainstream Hollywood films, has for his last two pictures returned to a more experimental, auteur route.
The jury, headed by film and theatre director Patrice Chereau, also gave multiple prizes to Denys Arcand's Barbarian Invasions and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Distant (Uzak).
That left the established festival names - Francois Ozon with Swimming Pool, Lars von Trier with Dogville, Peter Greenaway with The Tulse Luper Suitcases and Alexander Sokurov's Father And Son - with nothing.
Speaking at the press conference afterwards, Van Sant said he did not regard his film as especially political. "I don't think of it as anti American. It is critical only of certain systems in America, like the urge to conform." It is a musing on high school violence." Van Sant paid fulsome praise to the film's financier and distributor, the US pay TV group HBO. "It was made with a very low budget, we cast the film before we had fully finished the script. HBO was willing to play along."
HBO Films chairman Colin Callendar said that Elephant is assured of a theatrical release in the US, though a distributor has not yet been finalised. "We will announce this in the next few weeks in the context of our theatrical plans for all our movies," said Callendar.
"This award is great for Gus, for whom this was the first time in the formal part of the Cannes festival. It is a validation for a film maker who has had great commercial success, returning to his auteur roots. It is great for the film makers who work with us and gives a kick off to our new sales organisation in London and our theatrical drive."
Elephant Dir: Gus Van Sant
Grand Jury Prize
Distant (Uzak) Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Marie-Josee Croze for Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares)
Best Actor (Joint)
Mehmet Emin Toprak and Muzaffer Ozdemir both for Distant (Uzak)
Gus Van Sant for Elephant
At Five In The Afternoon (Pani E Aser) Dir: Samira Makhmalbaf
Denys Arcand for Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares)
Reconstruction Dir: Christoffer Boe (Den)
Osama Dir: Sedigh Barmak (Afghan)
SHORT FILM PRIZES:
Cracker Bag Dir: Glendyn Ivin (Australia)
Grand Jury Prize
L'Homme Sans Tete Dir: Juan Solanas (France)
Depuis Qu'Otar Est Parti Dir: Julie Bertucelli (France)
Prix Canal Plus for Short Film
Love Is The Law Dir: Eivind Tolas
Father And Son Dir Alexander Sokurov
Run Rabbit Run (Bezi Zeko Bezi) Dir: Pavle Vuckovic
Historia Dis Desierto Dir: Celia Galan Julve
3rd Prize (joint)
TV City Dir: Alberto Couceiro, Alejandro Tomei
At That Point Rebecca (Rebeca A Esas Alturas) Dir: Luciana Jauffred Gorostiza