The jury of the 74th Cannes Film Festival provided a thunderous surprise at the French horror delirium in Theater Lumière on Saturday. Titane to conjure up the top hat as the winner of the Golden Palm. Jury chairman Spike Lee was apparently so enthusiastic about this choice that he let the winner slip away at the start of the ceremony, to the astonishment of the audience.
The impressive, assertive director Julia Ducournau (37) of Titane is the first French woman to win the Palme d’Or and the second woman since Jane Campion with The Piano wins the prize in 1993. On the victory of Titane hadn’t counted on anyone: the film press dismissed the film as crushing but unsteady compared to Ducournau’s wild but more focused film debut grave (Raw) about a cannibalistic vet in training.
Titane is quite difficult to explain. A female serial killer with father issues, when she becomes pregnant with a Cadillac and threatens to run into trouble, is adopted as a son by a twisted fire chief. She got the idea for the film through a recurring nightmare in which she gave birth to car parts, Ducournau told this week. She acknowledged the influence of the body horror and metal fetishism of David Cronenberg and Shinya Tsukamoto. “Those two are deep in my DNA.”
This choice for a Golden Palm was radical: the jury made it very easy by awarding other prizes ex aequo. For example, the Grand Prix – second prize – went to Asghar Farhadi’s subtle Iranian moral tale A Hero, where the schlemiel Rahim finds a bag of gold and is punished harshly for every good deed. Farhadi shared the prize with the Finn Juho Kuosmanen, whose warm-blooded Hytti nro 6 (Coupé 6) was also widely appreciated. A lesbian Finnish archaeologist has to share a compartment on the night train to Murmansk with a roaring, pawing Russian comrade. This ‘meet cute’ from hell is followed by a magical, utterly convincing rapprochement: a plea to really see and hear each other.
The Jury Prize – third prize – also turned out to be double. Memories by the Thai mystic Apichatpong Weerasethakul won with a cinematic meditation in which Tilda Swinton, like a botanist in Colombia, hears a disconcertingly dull sound and sleepwalks through the jungle. Inspired by Weerasethakul’s own experience with the irritating ‘exploding head syndrome’; a film of endlessly long shots and striking soundscapes. Ahed’s Knee also won: a left-wing director’s journey between hysteria and ennui to a desert village, where maternal issues, self-loathing and rage over political expediency, embodied by civil servant Yahalom, become uniquely intertwined.
Best director and actors
Best direction went to French director Leos Carax for his grotesque rock musical Annette, the opening film of Cannes; best script to the three hour long Japanese Drive My Car from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, a Murakami adaptation in which a troubled stage director and his driver come together.
Caleb Landry Jones was voted Best Actor. In Nitram by the Australian violence specialist Justin Kurzel, he plays the mass murderer Martin Bryant, who killed 35 people and injured 23 in Port Arthur in 1996. Nitram is an intimate portrait of a psychopath and a critique of a society that makes him build an arsenal of weapons.
Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve, everyone’s favorite beforehand, became best actress as millennial Julie, plagued by amorous and existential stress of choice. The Worst Person in the World. The film press followed her march to the stage with heightened interest: Reinsve told everyone that she had vomited half a bucket full for her red carpet and predicted that if she won at the theater Lumière she would repeat it. That went well.
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Dutch outside the prizes
This result means that Paul Verhoeven will leave Cannes empty-handed, just like in 2016, when his film fell Elle not in the prices. The polarizing nun epic Benedetta debuted strongly in French cinemas this week. Also Gijs Naber’s Hungarian love drama The Story of My Wife did not win, although director Ildikó Enyedi predicted a great future for him after his breakthrough role as captain Schörr. “If they don’t see how much charisma he has after this, the whole world is blind.”
Cannes 74th edition can look back on a fair competition that was moderately attended, with a third fewer journalists than in 2019 – last year the largest film festival in the world was canceled due to Covid. On Friday, director Thierry Frémaux announced that there were about 70 positive cases in about 50,000 tests: those who were not fully vaccinated had to do a spit test every 48 hours. That number is much higher than the two to three cases that Cannes previously screened, but again does not indicate an outbreak of the Delta variant, also advancing on the Cote d’Azur. Although the case can still get a tail end: because of the ‘picture’ of well-stocked cinemas, Cannes put visitors close together and often kept the balconies closed.