The Palme d’Or, the most prestigious award at film festivals, has gone to Titane, an unconventional and violent film directed by 37-year-old French director Julia Ducournau.
In a chaotic ceremony, the award was announced early by mistake by the chairman of the jury, Spike Lee, who misunderstood a confusing French instruction to describe the first prize winner. “English!” he later exclaimed in frustration, as juror Tahar Rahim, star of the recent television series The Serpent, tried to explain what had gone wrong for Lee, the celebrated American director of films Do The Right Thing and Da Five Bloods.
When the time was finally right, it was Sharon Stone who presented the top award to Titane along with Lee. “She’s not going to screw this up!” he said. In accepting the award, Ducournau said he suspected Lee may have had a lot to do with the decision to give him the award.
The casting of Titane, a French film featuring a car sex scene, marked the close of a historic Cannes film festival, postponed from last year and then held two months past its regular date.
Titane, chosen by a jury that included actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Mylène Farmer, and Kang Ho Song, as well as directors Mati Diop, Jessica Hausner, and Kleber Mendonca Filho, ranked above other highly-rated candidates who had led the group of 24 films in competition this year, such as a popular Moroccan film about youth and hip-hop called Casablanca Beats and A Hero, a film loved by many critics by Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who at least shared the glory of the Grand Prix award with a Finnish film.
The winner’s choice will be unpopular with some, including The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who viewed Titane as “dumb and pointless.” Others have argued that it was the only truly adventurous option for a jury presided over by a provocateur like Lee.
While the Cannes winner may not get to pack multiplexes in Britain, it’s worth remembering that there is sometimes a close connection between an art house winner at the festival and subsequent commercial success. I, Ken Loach’s Daniel Blake became a modest hit in UK cinemas after winning in 2016, and after Bong Joon-ho won 2019 with the dark satire Parasite, the South Korean director went on to make history by taking the first Oscar for best film. for an entry that is not in English.
The French film also beat high-profile contenders such as Wes Anderson, who premiered his star-studded The French Dispatch in Cannes, Nanni Moretti, who gifted us with his Three Floors, and Sean Penn, who addressed himself and his daughter in Flag Day, written by British playwright Jez Butterworth and starring Eddie Marsan.
Among the established French directors competing for the coveted Palme at the 74th festival were Jacques Audiard for Paris, 13th District, François Ozon for Everything Went Fine, and Mia Hanson’s film Bergman Island Love, starring Tim Roth. Leos Carax also won many fans with his strange opening musical Annette, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. The festival’s opening film was also one of the most talked about, as it contained a musical sex scene. More controversial was Total Recall director Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian nun dress-up game Benedetta. But no film was very successful in betting during the final phase of the 12-day film festival on the Côte d’Azur, although Carax took great consolation in receiving the award for best director.
Lee told the audience at the Palais du Festival on the Croisette that he regards Cannes as his “second home”, having first visited in the late 1980s. The film festival, the largest in the world, was inevitably on a smaller scale this year. However, several prominent names from the movie world showed up to walk the red carpet, including Bill Murray, Jodie Foster, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Tilda Swinton, Matt Damon, and Sharon Stone.
Shared prices were the order of the day. The Grand Prize went to A Hero by Farhadi and the Finnish film Compartment No. 6 by Juho Kuosmanen.
The special jury award was shared by Ahed’s Knee, an Israeli film, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memory, and was presented by Rosamund Pike, who is fluent in French. The Guardian critic will be more pleased with the choice of Memoria, which he gave five stars.
The best actor was Caleb Landry Jones, who starred in Nitram, directed by Martin Bryant. Renate Reinsve won the best actress award for The Worst Person in the World, directed by Joachim Trier.
The best screenplay was for Drive My Car, co-written by Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe and adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami.
The winner of the short film special was All the Crows in the World, described as the “boldest” entry and made by Yi Tang, a young director from Hong Kong.
The Camera d’Or award for best first feature went to Murina, by Antonetta Alamat Kusjanovic, and a Palme d’Or was awarded to Italian director Marco Bellocchio.