The French director is only the second woman to win the top prize in the 74-year history of the Cannes festival.
‘Titane’, an imaginative film about a serial killer who has sex with a car, won the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Saturday’s win makes French director Julie Ducournau only the second female filmmaker to receive the highest honor in the festival’s 74-year history.
Her violent film divided critics, some praising its originality but others deterred by its frenetic and messy approach. Described as a ‘body horror’ film and based on a character with a titanium plate in her head, the film impressed with its energy.
“Ducournau’s beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy is a nightmarish yet mischievous comic barrage of sex, violence, lurid lighting and pounding music,” critics of the BBC said.
“It’s also impossible to predict where it’s going.”
Titane’s win was erroneously announced by jury chairman Spike Lee at the start of the closing ceremony, unleashing some moments of confusion. Ducournau did not take the stage to receive the award until the formal announcement at the end of the ceremony.
But the early hint didn’t diminish with her emotional response.
“I’m sorry, I keep shaking my head,” Ducournau said, catching his breath. “Is this real?”
She thanked the jury for “letting the monsters in” and then acknowledged her place in history to reporters. But she also said her win “cannot be reduced to just being a woman”.
More women will come after her, Ducournau said. “There will be a third, there will be a fourth, there will be a fifth.”
The only former female filmmaker to win Cannes’ highest honor — one of cinema’s most prestigious awards — was Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993.
Frustration over gender equality in Cannes has grown in recent years, including in 2018, when 82 women – including Agnes Varda, Cate Blanchett and Salma Hayek – protested gender inequality on the Cannes red carpet. Their number represented the total number of films by female directors selected to compete for the Palme d’Or – 82 compared to 1,645 films directed by men.
This year, four of the 24 films for de Palme were directed by women.
The Cannes festival is the world’s largest, returning to the French Riviera this year after a hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event drew stars like Matt Damon and Sharon Stone to the red carpet, and filmmakers and actors were excited to be back, although the turnout was lower than in previous years.
After the awards were officially announced on Saturday, other big winners included Leos Carax, who was chosen as Best Director for “Annette”, a musical about two artists embroiled in a twisted love affair.
The second prize grand prix was shared between ‘Compartment no6’ by Juho Kuosmanen, about a woman who goes on a train journey through Russia, and ‘A Hero’ by Iranian Asghar Farhadi, which shows a prisoner confronted by a moral dilemma.
Hamaguchi Ryusuke and Takamusa Oe from Japan won the best screenplay for their heartbreak and loss story “Drive My Car”.
It was also a great night for previously unknown Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve, who was shot to stardom for her role in “Worst Person in the World”. Joachim Trier’s film is a modern romantic comedy that was a huge success with critics.
Caleb Landry Jones, who starred in the Australian film “Nitram”, won the Best Actor award.
The jury prize, a second prize for best film, went to two films: “Ahead’s Knee” by the Israeli Nadav Lapid and “Memoria” by the Thai Apichatpong Weerasethakul.