And the Cannes winner is - Titane

Jury President Spike Lee jumps the gun at unpredictable awards ceremony

by Richard Mowe

Palme d'Or winner Titane
Palme d'Or winner Titane Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
The suspense that usually precedes the announcement of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or was cast asunder last night when the flamboyant Jury president Spike Lee accidentally announced the recipient - Titane by Julia Ducournau - in the first few moments of the official unveiling of the winners.

The jury, which included Tahar Rahim, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Mati Diop and Jessica Hausner, spent the rest of the evening trying to ensure the proper order was observed.

Julia Ducournau winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival: 'I know my film is not perfect — but I think no film is perfect in the eyes of the person who made it'
Julia Ducournau winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival: 'I know my film is not perfect — but I think no film is perfect in the eyes of the person who made it' Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Ducournau, whose first film Raw screened in Critics’ Week in 2016, is first solo female filmmaker to land the Palme d’Or, although Jane Campion's The Piano shared the prize with Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine in 1993. The director’s actors Vincent Lindon and newcomer Agathe Rousselle joined the emotional winner on stage to receive the award from Sharon Stone. Ducournau recalled being fan of watching the Cannes closing ceremony with her parents. “At that time, I was sure that all the films awarded must have been perfect because they were on the stage. And tonight, I’m on that same stage, but I know my film is not perfect — but I think no film is perfect in the eyes of the person who made it.” She added that she hoped her film would open doors for a more inclusive and fluid world and praised the jury for “letting the monsters in”.

Two of the major prizes were shared: the Grand Prix was won by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero and Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment No. 6, with the Finnish director revealing he was one of Farhadi’s greatest fans.

Meanwhile the Jury Prize was split between Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria.

Cult director Leos Carax was awarded the best director gong for Annette, the musical with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard which opened the Festival some 12 days previously. The award was received by the musical team of Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks who stood in for the absent Carax, who apparently had a dental emergency.

Acting accolades were bestowed on Caleb Landry Jones for his portrayal of a mass murderer in Jurstin Kurzel’s Nitram, and to Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve for Joachim Trier’s romantic comedy The Worst Person In The World.

When Julia met Spike: Julia Ducournau rushed over to greet Jury President Spike Lee after receiving the Palme d’Or on the closing night of the Cannes Film Festival
When Julia met Spike: Julia Ducournau rushed over to greet Jury President Spike Lee after receiving the Palme d’Or on the closing night of the Cannes Film Festival Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
The best screenplay award went to Japanese director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi for his three-hour adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story Drive My Car, which also took home a Fipresci award earlier.

Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina won the Camera d’Or award for first film.

At the start of the ceremony veteran Italian film-maker Marco Bellocchio received an honorary Palme d’Or from Paolo Sorrentino.

So what will the departing throng take away from this year’s uniquely brave and consistently provocative edition? The fact that it happened at all and managed to resemble editions of more normal times with a few added Covid intrusions, is testimony to festival director Thierry Frémaux’s faith and conviction in the power of cinema in times of adversity and of the pre-eminent place of Cannes in the festival firmament. There no fewer than 72 titles on offer (a record) - and that’s without counting The Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week.

The phalanx of star power on the red carpet (Jodie Foster, Sharon Stone, Sean Penn, Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Bill Murray, the omni-present Tilda Swinton and his hotness Timothée Chamalet to cite just a few) was impressive. The added weight of serious auteurs, both familiar and new, contributed to a vintage edition by any yardstick.

Jury president Spike Lee’s wardrobe was constantly diverting, running the gamut from cherry pink to loud checks with sun specs to match. From the opening idiosyncrasies of Leos Carax’s musical Annette through the predictably headline hitting antics of Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian nuns in Benedetta to Wes Anderson’s richly eccentric The French Dispatch it seemed as if film-makers were determined to make audiences forget their woes.

An emotional moment for Titane director Julia Ducournau, right, with actress newcomer Agathe Rousselle at the closing night of the Cannes Film Festival
An emotional moment for Titane director Julia Ducournau, right, with actress newcomer Agathe Rousselle at the closing night of the Cannes Film Festival Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
There were sombre subjects too such as François Ozon’s beautifully calibrated Everything Went Fine in which two sisters (Sophie Marceau and Géraldine Pailhas), help with the assisted suicide of their father; Gaspard Noë’s dementia drama Vortex featuring Italian horror legend Dario Argento which was only shot in April and previous Palme d”or winner Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria with Tilda Swinton dealing with memory and solitude.

The organisers managed to keep the Riviera’s July holidaymakers happy with screenings on the beach prompting a scrum to access the latest in the Fast and Furious franchise despite it opening in cinemas the next day. Tonight as a blockbuster finale Jean Dujardin and Pierre Niney frolic in From Africa With Love, a spy spoof directed by Nicolas Bedos and the third in the politically incorrect Gallic franchise and due for release in France on 4 August.

The health strictures (such as the detested saliva spitting into tubes and obligatory masks) appeared to have kept infections under control without any reported clusters while not putting too much of a downer on the glitz and glamour. There were parties and dinners but on a much reduced and socially managed scale. Only French actress Léa Seydoux (with multiple appearances in The French Dispatch, Arnaud Desplechin’s Deception, Bruno Dumont’s France, and Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi’s The Story Of My Wife) stayed home: confined to her flat in Paris after testing positive during another film shoot. She has said with stoicism: “It’s sad, it’s a shame, but that’s the way it is.”

Best actor at Cannes: Caleb Landry Jones for Justin Kurzel’s Nitram
Best actor at Cannes: Caleb Landry Jones for Justin Kurzel’s Nitram Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
A common theme from quoted red carpet luminaries was the relief of being able to share a film with an audience after months of lockdown and shuttered cinemas. Swinton suggested that streaming giants such as Netflix should show their declared devotion to the big screen by helping to finance the building of more cinemas rather than being cast as predators.

At the start of the 12-day event which aims to return to its usual May berth next year, Frémaux permitted himself a sigh of relief that finally the Festival was up and running. Now it’s all over bar the shouting he can exhale again with the added consensus of a job well done.

COMPETITION

  • Palme d’Or: Titane
  • Grand Prix — TIE: Asghar Farhadi, A Hero AND Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment No. 6
  • Director: Leos Carax, Annette
  • Actor: Caleb Landry Jones, Nitram
  • Actress: Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World
  • Jury Prize — TIE: Nadav Lapid Ahed’s Knee and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria
  • Screenplay: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car

OTHER PRIZES

  • Camera d’Or: Murina, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović
  • Short Films Palme d’Or: All the Crows in the World, Tang Yi
  • Short Films Special Mention: August Sky, Jasmin Tenucci

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