Cannes makes history with Palme d’Or for Julia Ducournau thriller ‘Titane’

France’s Julia Ducournau became only the second female director to win a Palme d’Or for her brutal thriller “Titane,” as the 74th Cannes Film Festival closed on Saturday with a bang, after successfully hosting the Covid-19’s first large-scale film festival. era.

If there was ever any doubt that a jury led by Spike Lee would give us a history book prize list, it was wiped out with a gigantic surprise: a Palme d’Or for one of the most daring and divisive films to show in competition. of recent years. The way Ducournau won was equally surprising as the ceremony started where it should have ended, with Lee accidentally announcing the Palme d’Or laureate from the start.

A gender-bending, genre-bending, serial killer eccentric who shocked and delighted in equal measure, “Titane” is certainly a bold choice for the film’s most prestigious award. It puts an end to the long wait for a second female laureate since Jane Campion won the Palme d’Or in 1993 for ‘The Piano’.

Director Julia Ducournau and her team pose on the steps of the Palais des Festivals for the screening of ‘Titane’. © Mehdi Chebil

“Titane” marks Ducournau’s sequel to the 2016 shocker “Grave,” the coming-of-age story of a teenage vegetarian woman who develops a taste for human flesh. It stars Agathe Rousselle as an accident survivor with a metal sheet in her head and a penchant for cars (though not for driving them).

The film confirms Ducournau’s status as the leader of an exciting new trend in French cinema, mixing genre films and queer concerns. The Hollywood Reporter saw it as a “last stake through the heart” to the “image of French cinema as consisting mainly of artfully shot black-and-white films about straight men smoking and having sex with their mistresses.”

Ultra-violent scenes had a number of moviegoers (including this reporter) shield their eyes. There were many early strikes at the press screenings, although the film still earned a long standing ovation at its red carpet premiere. “Titane” is certainly not a movie for all tastes. But if Cannes can no longer tolerate bold, provocative dishes, it might as well close the shop.

After Lee’s slip-up, the ceremony continued and other awards were handed out while the jury chief was seen with his head in his hands.

The Grand Prix award was a joint award between the Iranian drama ‘A Hero’ and ‘Apartment No. 6’ by Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen. Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee” won the third place jury award, while Best Director was awarded to Leos Carax for “Annette”, the fantastic musical that opened the festival. The award was received by musical duo Sparks, who wrote the script and music for the film.

Norwegian Renate Reinsve won the Best Actress award for her stunning turn in Joachim Trier’s much-loved romance “The Worst Person in the World”, while Caleb Landry Jones won Best Actor for his role in Justin Kurzel’s “Nitram”, about the Mass in Port Arthur shot that shocked Australia in 1996. The Croatian coming-of-age drama ‘Murina’ by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović won the Camera d’Or prize for the best first feature film.

Sun, stars and a little drool

The world’s largest and glitziest film gathering was the first major film festival to take place in (almost) its usual form since the advent of Covid-19. Pandemic restrictions certainly put a damper on the parties and resulted in fewer visitors, while the unusual closing in July meant movie buffs were outnumbered by holidaymakers for once. Still, the fact that the event could take place without major hiccups meant a triumph for Cannes.

There were some complaints early in the festival about the logistics of Covid-19, forcing non-EU visitors (as well as unvaccinated EU nationals) to have saliva tests every 48 hours. Some were grossed out by all the spitting, but the system was efficient and fast. Photos of unmasked viewers at early premieres also drew criticism on social media, though restrictions were quickly tightened. French actress Léa Seydoux was the only prominent Covid victim, missing four red carpet premieres after contracting the virus in Paris.

Seydoux should have appeared next to a busload of top stars from Wes Anderson’s, “The French Dispatch”, which features Thimothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and many more A-listers. The final trio of actors posed with the director in the festival’s most memeable photo, which Twitter users rushed to tag. Popular captions included “Z, X, Millennial, Boomer” and “Pitch, first draft, final proof, comments section”.

“The French Dispatch” director Wes Anderson (second from left) with actors Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray. REUTERS – SARAH MEYSSONNIER

After last year’s washout, festival-goers were treated to a plethora of films, some of which have been waiting to premiere since early 2020. The organizers piled on the 12-day movie extravaganza with enough material to cover the next pandemic, bagging 24 movies in the main competition and more than five times the number in the many sidebars — perhaps to make up for the lack of parties.

The deluge of films included a brand new segment on climate change, part of Cannes’ efforts to put the environmental emergency at the center of the Covid era. The famous red carpet has been shortened this year and made from recycled materials instead of the usual PVC. Festival organizers also banned plastic bottles, deployed a fleet of electric cars and set a contribution of €20 from each participant to offset some of their carbon footprint.

In addition to the Palme d’Or race, Cannes offered plenty of captivating sights on the big screen. Kira Kovalenko’s “Unclenching the Fists”, about a Russian woman’s attempts to break free from her parents’ clutches, took top prize in the sidebar of Un Certain Regard, devoted to emerging talent, which also featured the first-ever Bengali film of the festival featured Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s poignant “Rehana”. Another rarity at Cannes, Haitian cinema got the chance to shine with Gessica Généus’ “Freda”, bringing a measure of joy to a nation in turmoil. Covering the highs and lows of Val Kilmer’s career, “Val” stood out among a string of powerful documentaries screened this year, while Cannes scored a belated coup with the last-minute shooting of “Revolution of Our Times,” a hard-hitting chronicle of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019 and their brutal crackdown.

Director Gessica Généus (center) and the cast of “Freda” attend the film’s photocall in Cannes on July 15, 2021. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

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