China's stylish film noir "Black Coal, Thin Ice" by Diao Yinan about a washed up ex-cop investigating a series of grisly murders won the Berlin film festival's Golden Bear top prize Saturday.
In a remarkably strong showing for Asian cinema, the picture, whose Chinese title is Bai Ri Yan Huo, also captured the Silver Bear best actor award for its star Liao Fan.
"It's really hard to believe that this dream has come true which didn't come true for such a long time," Diao said as he accepted the trophy, fighting back tears.
The picture is set in the late 1990s in northern China and its murder mystery plot is told through enigmatic flashbacks.
Liao put on weight to play the alcoholic suspended police officer who falls hard for a mysterious murder suspect (Gwei Lun Mei).
"Yesterday was Valentine's Day and also the beginning of spring in China and the whole of Berlin was in love. Yesterday was also my 40th birthday," Liao said.
"I think this was the most wonderful present you could give me."
The Berlinale, Europe's first major film festival of the year, gave its best actress prize to Japan's Haru Kuroki for her role as a discreet housemaid in wartime Tokyo in Yoji Yamada's "The Little House".
"I will take this happiness and joy for winning the prize back to Japan," Kuroki said, wearing an elegant kimono.
The second of three Chinese films in competition in Berlin, "Blind Massage" (Tui Na) featuring a cast made up in part of amateur blind actors, captured a Silver Bear prize for outstanding artistic contribution for cinematographer Zeng Jian.
American films shared the glory, with Wes Anderson's historical caper "The Grand Budapest Hotel" offering a nostalgic look back at a Europe lost to war claiming the runner-up Silver Bear grand jury prize.
US actress Greta Gerwig, a member of the jury, read out a statement from Anderson who was not in Berlin for the awards.
"This Silver Bear is the first both full-scale and genuinely metallic prize I have ever received from a film festival so I feel particularly honoured, moved and indeed thrilled to accept it," he wrote.
The picture starring Ralph Fiennes had opened the Berlinale on February 6.
- Stylistic tour-de-force -
Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater, whose innovative coming-of-age drama "Boyhood" was 12 years in the making and a critical and audience hit at the festival, won best director.
"I accept it on behalf of the more than 400 people who worked on my movie," said Linklater, clutching the trophy.
"This says best director but I want to think of it as best ensemble."
Best screenplay went to the German sibling duo Dietrich and Anna Brueggemann for their drama "Stations of the Cross" (Kreuzweg) about a young girl who makes the ultimate sacrifice for the fundamentalist Catholic beliefs of her family.
Veteran French director Alain Resnais clinched the Alfred Bauer Prize for work of particular innovation for his play-within-a-film "Life of Riley" (Aimer, boire et chanter).
A jury led by US producer James Schamus ("Brokeback Mountain") handed out the prizes at a gala ceremony in the German capital.
"Black Coal, Thin Ice" divided audiences in Berlin but won critical praise.
Industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter hailed it as "a salute to the classic Hollywood film noir, an exciting stylistic tour-de-force" but questioned its commercial prospects.
Film business bible Variety called it a "bleak but powerful, carefully controlled detective thriller in which — as with all the best noirs — there are no real heroes or villains, only various states of compromise".
"Black Coal, Thin Ice", in which the action takes place in a frosty landscape far from China's glittering cities, is Diao's third feature film.