American directors Joel and Ethan Coen unanimously won the Golden Palm award Monday at the 44th Cannes Film Festival for their movie "Barton Fink," organizers said.

French comedienne Irene Jacob won the prize for best actress for her role in "The Double Life of Veronica" by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski."La Belle Noiseuse," a film by French director Jacques Rivette about painter Edouard Fenhofer, won the Grand Prix.

The Coen brothers also won the prize for best direction for their study of the life of a Hollywood screen writer. Ironically, the film received many unfavorable reviews during the festival.

U.S. actor John Tarturro won the prize for best male performance for his role in "Barton Fink," and Samuel Jackson, another U.S. actor, won the prize this year for best supporting role for his part in director Spike Lee's film "Jungle Fever."

Danish director Lars Von Trier's "Europa" about the old continent seen from an American viewpoint and Franco-Lebanese filmmaker Maroun Bagdadi's "Hors la Vie" (Outside Life) about the ordeal of a French photographer held hostage by Muslim guerrillas in Lebanon jointly won the Jury Prize.

Von Triers of Denmark's "Europa" also won the prize for best technical production.

The Franco-Belgian movie "Toto the Hero" directed by Belgian Jaco van Dormael won the $50,000 "Golden Camera" award for a first film.

The film, screened in the out-of-competition Directors' Fortnight section, stars Michel Bouquet as the anti-hero who is convinced he was swapped at birth with his cousin Alfred.

The awarding of the prestigious Golden Palm and two other top honors to "Barton Fink" was sure to fuel controversy bubbling at the festival over the apparent dominance of U.S. films for three years running, critics said.

In the past two years, two U.S. films have won the main Golden Palm prize - Steven Soderburg's "sex, lies and videotape" in 1989 and David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" last year.

As the festival has gone on, the absence of more films from around the world has become increasingly blatant. Sunday, the last day of screening for competiton films, was the first day in a week without a film in official competition either made by Americans or concentrating on American issues.

As many critics see it, Cannes has been hegemonized by money culture, seeming to forget its founding principles as a showcase for international cinema regardless of the size of the producer's wallet.

Conversely the films in competition attracting the most favorable comments were almost exclusively non-American.

Closing the 44th Cannes Film Festival Monday, Ridley Scott's film "Thelma and Louise" screened out of competition in the official selection. Scott is best known for visually stunning cinema as the director of "Blade Runner" and "Aliens."

The film marks a change in focus as he concentrates more on human landscape. "The emphasis is almost totally on character, rather than where a spaceship comes from," Scott explained.

Thelma and Louise are two dissatisfied friends who leave their respective jobs as housewife and waitress and hit the road. Subsequently they encounter a series of stereotypical men, and the story explores the way in which sexes relate to one another.

Scott, who formed the video-TV production company Percy May Productions 20 years ago, once won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes during the late 1970s for "The Duellists."

His next project is one of the two biographies of Christopher Columbus to be made over the next year. Scott will direct French actor Gerard Depardieu in the title role. James Bond star Timothy Dalton plays Columbus in the rival version.

"Thelma and Louise" stars Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon and Harvey Keitel. Scott's move to an issue-based movie rather than one motivated by special effects has pleased him. He compares his earlier films to rock music and "Thelma and Louise" to a classical concerto.