Julia Ducournau’s “Titane,” a wild body-horror thriller featuring sex with a car and a surprisingly tender heart, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, making Ducournau just the second female filmmaker to win the festival’s top honor in its 74 year history.
The win on Saturday was mistakenly announced by jury president Spike Lee at the top of the closing ceremony, broadcast in France on Canal+, unleashing a few moments of confusion. Ducournau, a French filmmaker, didn’t come to the stage to accept the award until the formal announcement at the end of the ceremony. But the early hint didn’t diminish from her emotional response.
“I’m sorry, I keep shaking my head,” said Decournau, catching her breath. “Is this real? Why am I even speaking English right now?”
Vincent Lindon, from left, director Julia Ducournau, Agathe Rousselle, Garance Marillier and Lais Salameh pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Titane’ at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (AP)
After several false starts, Lee implored Sharon Stone to make the announcement, explaining: “She’s not going to mess it up.” The problems started when Lee was asked to say which prize would be awarded first. Instead, he announced the evening’s final prize, as fellow juror Mati Diop plunged her head into her hands and others rushed to stop him.
Lee, himself, spent several moments with his head in his hands before apologizing profusely for taking a lot of the suspense out of the evening.
Decournau’s win was a long-awaited triumph. The only previous female filmmaker to win Cannes’ top honor — among the most pristigeous awards in cinema — was Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993. In recent years, frustration at Cannes’ gender parity has grown, including in 2018, when 82 women — including Agnes Varda, Cate Blanchett and Salma Hayek — protested gender inequality on the Cannes red carpet. Their number signified the movies by female directors selected to compete for the Palme d’Or — 82 compared to 1,645 films directed by men. This year, four out of 24 films up for the Palme were directed by women.
Cannes’ closing ceremony capped 12 days of red-carpet premieres, regular COVID-19 testing for many attendees and the first major film festival to be held since the pandemic began in almost its usual form. With smaller crowds and mandated mask-wearing in theaters, Cannes pushed forward with an ambitious slate of global cinema. Last year’s Cannes was completely canceled by the pandemic.
Jury president Spike Lee, centre, poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film ‘OSS 117: From Africa with Love’ at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
In 2019, the Palme went to Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” which later took best picture at the Academy Awards, too.
The other were spread out across a slate of films that included many leading international filmmakers.
The Grand Prix award was a joint honor split between the Iranian drama “A Hero” and Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s “Apartment No. 6.”
Best director was awarded to Leos Carax for “Annette,” the fantastical musical that opened the festival. The award was accepted by the musical duo Sparks, who wrote the script and music for the film.
Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee” won the jury prize, while Caleb Landry Jones took home the best actor prize. Renate Reinsve won best actress for Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World.”
The Croatian coming-of-age drama “Murina,” by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, took the Camera d’Or award, a non-jury prize, for best first feature. Kusijanović was absent from the ceremony after giving birth a day earlier.
Lee was the first Black jury president at Cannes. His fellow jury members are: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Song Kang-ho, Tahar Rahim, Mati Diop, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Mylène Farmer.