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Austrian director Michael Haneke says the honour proves France loves him as much as he loves France. ((Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press))

Award-winning Austrian director Michael Haneke has been handed France's highest honour for his cultural achievements.

Haneke, whose Oscar-nominated The White Ribbon (2009) captured several film prizes and wide praise, was made a Commander in France's National Order of Arts and Letters in a ceremony Sunday at the Cannes film festival in southern France.

The director, who was born in Germany but retains Austrian citizenship, says the award shows that France loves him as much as he loves France.

Actress Juliette Binoche, who starred in Haneke's Caché and Code Unknown, watched as French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand pinned a green and gold medallion on the filmmaker.

The politician lauded the 68-year-old auteur for his edgy examination of violence, an underlying theme in his movies.

The White Ribbon, which garnered Cannes' top trophy last year, examines a bizarre series of unsolved crimes involving the children in a small German town in 1913, which may be triggered by the town's authoritarian and repressive atmosphere.

Born in 1942 in Munich to a German actor and an Austrian actress, Haneke went on to study psychology and drama at the University of Vienna.  He began working as a TV director in the 1970s.

In 1989, he had his feature film debut with The Seventh Continent, but he burst onto the international scene much later, in 2001, with The Piano Teacher.

The film, starring Isabelle Huppert, captured one of the major prizes at Cannes in 2002.

His other films include Benny's Video, Funny Games and Time of the Wolf.

Haneke also works as a theatre and opera director.

With files from The Associated Press