With three films in the official line-up, Italy was one of the strongest contingents in the Cannes Film Festival, along with France which had five films in the Palme d'Or race.
But on Sunday Italian directors Paolo Sorrentino, Matteo Garrone and Nanni Moretti – dubbed “the three musketeers” in the Italian press – left the competition empty-handed.
The coveted Palme d’Or was captured by the French film Dheepan, a thriller spotlighting the plight of traumatized refugees building new lives.
France also won big in other categories with the prize of best actor going to Vincent Lindon for his role as a job-seeker trying to preserve his dignity in The Measure of a Man, while the best actress award was won by Emmanuelle Bercot for her part in the doomed romance Mon Roi (My King).
Bercot split the prize with Rooney Mara, who was paired in the American lesbian love story Carol with more hotly tipped co-star Cate Blanchett.
The best director honour went to Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-Hsien for the lush, slow-burn martial arts film The Assassin.
The absence of Italian winners this year was greeted with bitterness and disappointment by the Italian media, with Italian daily La Stampa branding the judges “Francophiles”.
“The Festival reconfirms itself as a place of research, but this time, too excessively, as a place of extreme promotion of home-grown cinema,” read the article published on Monday.
“If it had happened at the Venice Film Festival, someone would speak out, who knows what they would have accused us of.”
Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper was also critical, accusing the jury, which was led by the Coen brothers, of veering away from the opinion of critics, reporters and the public.
“The difficult situation in the world (including the economic crisis and terrorism) may have influenced the jury who chose titles with social issues: unemployment, emigration, war, the Holocaust,” read an article also published on Monday.
Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini, meanwhile, was more gracious about the defeat.
“Cannes is a great festival even when Italians don’t win. It’s a duty to be there: France and Italy together are European cinema,” he tweeted at the end of the ceremony.
Cannes è un grande Festival anche quando gli italiani non vincono. Un dovere essere qui: Francia e Italia sono insieme il cinema europeo.— Dario Franceschini (@dariofrance) May 24, 2015
In line with a broader Cannes trend, two of the three Italian films in the line-up were made in English this year.
They included Youth by Oscar winner Sorrentino, which features an all-star UK and US cast: Michael Caine, Jane Fonda, Rachel Weisz, Harvey Keitel and Paul Dano.
The second, The Tale of Tales, by Garrone (who won the Grand Prize in 2008 for Gomorra), stars Salma Hayek and Vincent Cassel in a fantasy collection of three fables.
Only Moretti, a Cannes darling who won the Palme in 2001 for The Son's Room, sticks mostly to Italian with his semi-autobiographical My Mother – but even then, US-Italian actor John Turturro adds some of the international lingua franca to the mix.