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Titane may not have been the best film at Cannes but it had guts

Titane  may not have been the best film at Cannes but it had guts


Spike Lee Accidentally Reveals Palme d'Or Winner Early: It's 'Titane' Sun, 18 Jul 2021 02:00:00 +0100-Julia Ducournau has became the second woman ever to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Her triumph is a suitably rock'n'roll ending for this year's festival.

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Titane may not have been the best film at Cannes, but it had guts, drive – and an anthro-automotive hybrid devil child

July 17, 2021

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Julia Ducournau has became the second woman ever to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Her triumph is a suitably rock’n’roll ending for this year’s festival

Cannes let rip a punk power chord of glorious mischief by giving the Palme d’Or to Julie Ducournau’s gonzo genderqueer body-horror shocker Titane, and the jury and the movie’s many fans will have savoured the delicious applecart-upsetting thrill of it all. It’s the biggest épat since Lars Von Trier won it for Dancer in the Dark — and, importantly, it’s an award that makes Julie Ducournau only the second female Palme-winner in the festival’s history, since Jane Campion.

I must admit I was not a fan of Titane, being in my view not the best movie in competition, and not the best film that Ducournau has directed — being less interesting than her first film, the more complex and more shocking Raw. But I’m an enormous fan of challenging the consensus and overturning the tyranny of anaemic good taste, and perhaps there’s something in the perennial stateliness of cinéma that cries out to be trolled, a bit. Tonight Titane put its steel toe-capped boot through the origami flower of received wisdom. And there’s something refreshing in that.

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‘Titane put its steel toe-capped boot through the origami flower of received wisdom’. Photograph: Carole Bethuel

Newcomer Agathe Rouselle gave it everything she had — which was a heck of a lot — as Alexia, a young woman who has grown up with a titanium steel plate in her head, after surviving a car crash in childhood caused by her useless dad. Making a living as a dancer, she takes extreme retributive action against a creepy, abusive male fan and goes on the run disguised as a boy, where she finally falls under the unexpectedly tender protection of fire chief Vincent (played by grizzled, rumpled French cinema veteran Vincent Lindon).

But she’s also had transgressive Ballardo-Cronenbergian sex with a vintage Cadillac, leaving her pregnant with an anthro-automotive hybrid devil child. Titane could well come to be savoured as a cult classic to rival Eraserhead, although perhaps being turned down for the Palme d’Or would have done just as much for that elevation. I have to be honest and say that I still found something a little bit silly and pointless in Titane, but it is obviously the work of a supremely talented film-maker who calculates her effects with masterly precision, and we are seeing the beginnings of a great career.

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Asghar Farhadi in Cannes. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

The second prize was split between two films: the Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment No 6 and Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero. This latter film was hugely admired here in Cannes with many tipping it for the big prize: the complex, subtle story of a man imprisoned for debt who thinks he can get out of his jail sentence by paying off his creditor by secretly selling the gold coins that his girlfriend has found by a bus-stop – and then when that looks tricky, muddles his way towards another idea: pretending to be a hero of honesty and returning them to their owner. It’s an intriguing high concept, though I wondered about something rather forced and contrived in some of the plot transitions. It has understated, excellent performance from Amir Jadidi as the self-pitying anti-hero himself. (I think he should have got best actor.)

I loved Compartment No 6, and its unexpected success tonight was one of the evening’s real pleasures: a love story aboard a train, with a touch of the French New Wave, as a Finnish archaeology student gradually falls for a tough, boorish Russian guy who has a heart of gold.

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Elkin Diaz, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tilda Swinton and Juan Pablo Urrego attend the closing ceremony of this year’s Cannes. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

It turns out that the “bronze medal” level, the Jury prize, was also a split decision. It was shared by Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s freaky, visionary slow cinema jewel Memoria, about an expatriate Englishwoman in Bogota (played by Tilda Swinton) who hears the strange booming noises (perhaps like the terrifyingly elemental ou-boum noise in the cave in EM Forster’s A Passage to India) and Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee, about an Israeli movie director stricken with rage and guilt at being complicit in his country’s institutional cruelties. For me, Ahed’s Knee was directed and lit and edited with exciting energy and hyperactivity which mimicked its hero’s turmoil, but it’s script led it into some feeble evasions. Memoria is a wonderful film, but I can see how it would divide a jury.

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Ryusuke Hamaguchi with his prize. Photograph: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

My own (inaccurate) tip for the Palme d’Or itself was Ryu Hamaguchi’s fascinating and mysterious movie Drive My Car, elegantly inspired by the Murakami short story; as it turned out, Hamaguchi had to content himself with the best screenplay prize with his co-writer Takamasa Oe, and there is justice in this: the script was extremely well turned both in the building-blocks of narrative and the line-by-line distinction of its dialogue.

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The Mael brothers in Cannes. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Leos Carax has found getting movies made such a personal trial in recent years that it is pleasing, in a way, to see the best director prize go to him for the uproarious, tonally ambiguous musical Annette, composed by Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as the bad-boy comedian and refined opera singer who have a child together: the troubled girl singer of the title. Again, Carax’s direction was authoritative enough, especially as he was working in English, but I would have preferred to see this prize go to Sean Baker for Red Rocket, his story about a Trumpian failed porn star, or Jacques Audiard for his Paris, 13th District, the intercutting love stories in the Les Olympiades district, films which sadly were passed over this evening.

As for the acting awards (and it is arguably a mark of Cannes more highbrow image that these are less important than for the Oscars), Caleb Landry Jones, who is so often cast in challenging and disturbing roles, won best actor for his very disquieting performance as Martin Bryant, in Justin Kurzel’s Nitram: Australia’s most notorious mass killer. It’s a powerful performance, although there is something a bit obvious in this choice.

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Renate Reinsve in Cannes. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

My favourite award of the whole evening was the best actress award to the relative unknown Norwegian actor Renate Reinsve, in Joachim Trier’s relationship comedy The Worst Person in the World, for her superbly judged, beguilingly vulnerable performance as a young woman realising that to fall in love is to make an unalterable life-choice. I wasn’t the only one at Cannes to say, swooningly: “A star is born” – but it’s true.But the real star getting born tonight is Ducournau for her film Titane; she has made history with her victory, and what a rock’n’roll ending to a richly enjoyable festival.


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Titane may not have been the best film at Cannes, but it had guts … Sun, 18 Jul 2021 02:00:00 +0100-Julia Ducournau becomes the second woman to win the top prize, after Jane Campion in 1993. The surprise reveal came at the start of a chaotic ceremony.

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Spike Lee Accidentally Reveals Palme d’Or Winner Early: It’s ‘Titane’

July 17, 2021

Julia Ducournau becomes the second woman to win the top prize, after Jane Campion in 1993. The surprise reveal came at the start of a chaotic ceremony.

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Agathe Rousselle in a scene from “Titane,” the Palme d’Or winner.Credit…Carole Bethuel
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July 17, 2021Updated 5:16 p.m. ET

CANNES, France — The 2021 edition of the Cannes Film Festival gave its top prize, the prestigious Palme d’Or, to the French film “Titane.”

A wild serial-killer story with some of the most controversial scenes of the festival, “Titane” was directed by Julia Ducournau, who became just the second woman to win the Palme, after Jane Campion took the prize in 1993 for “The Piano.”

And though “Titane” had been hotly tipped as a prime contender for the Palme, that reveal came much earlier than intended: At the beginning of the closing ceremony, when the jury president, Spike Lee, was asked to announce the first prize of the night, he misunderstood and read off the first-prize winner instead.

“Don’t do it!” shouted the actress-director Mélanie Laurent, a jury member seated next to Lee. But the cat was already out of the bag.

(At a news conference after the ceremony, Lee said that he had no excuses and that “I messed up,” adding, “I’m a big sports fan. It’s like the guy at the end of the game in the foul line, he misses the free throw or a guy misses a kick.” He also said he apologized to the Cannes organizers. “They said forget about it.”)

The accidental “Titane” reveal was only the first of several chaotic moments at the ceremony, as the spoiled Palme reveal was followed by a best-actor prize for Caleb Landry Jones for the Australian tragedy “Nitram.” When a nervous-looking Jones took the stage, he appeared sick to his stomach, said, “I cannot do this,” and beat a hasty retreat.

Still, by the time a teary Ducournau was brought out at the end of the ceremony to finally accept her Palme, she had embraced the chaos. “This evening has been perfect,” she said, “because it’s so not perfect.”

Julia Ducournau, left with her star, Agatha Rousselle, became the second woman to win the Palme d’Or in Cannes history.Credit…Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Other major winners included Leos Carax, who took the best-director prize for his eccentric musical “Annette,” best-actress winner Renate Reinsve for the Norwegian romantic dramedy “The Worst Person in the World,” and a pair of ties: The second-place prize was split between “A Hero,” from the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, and the Finnish drama “Compartment No. 6,” while the third-prize tie went to the Nadav Lapid film “Ahed’s Knee” and “Memoria,” starring Tilda Swinton.

At the last Cannes film festival, held in 2019, the Palme winner was “Parasite,” the first major prize Bong Joon Ho’s film took on its path to the best-picture Oscar. Though “Titane” is far too gory to become a major Oscar contender, its Palme win firmly establishes Ducournau as a major international director only two feature films into her career.

Correction: July 17, 2021

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the winner of the best director prize. He is Leos Carax, not Leox Carax.

Julia Ducournau becomes the second woman to win the top prize, after Jane Campion in 1993. The surprise reveal came at the start of a chaotic ceremony.

image
Agathe Rousselle in a scene from “Titane,” the Palme d’Or winner.Credit…Carole Bethuel
image
July 17, 2021Updated 5:16 p.m. ET

CANNES, France — The 2021 edition of the Cannes Film Festival gave its top prize, the prestigious Palme d’Or, to the French film “Titane.”

A wild serial-killer story with some of the most controversial scenes of the festival, “Titane” was directed by Julia Ducournau, who became just the second woman to win the Palme, after Jane Campion took the prize in 1993 for “The Piano.”

And though “Titane” had been hotly tipped as a prime contender for the Palme, that reveal came much earlier than intended: At the beginning of the closing ceremony, when the jury president, Spike Lee, was asked to announce the first prize of the night, he misunderstood and read off the first-prize winner instead.

“Don’t do it!” shouted the actress-director Mélanie Laurent, a jury member seated next to Lee. But the cat was already out of the bag.

(At a news conference after the ceremony, Lee said that he had no excuses and that “I messed up,” adding, “I’m a big sports fan. It’s like the guy at the end of the game in the foul line, he misses the free throw or a guy misses a kick.” He also said he apologized to the Cannes organizers. “They said forget about it.”)

The accidental “Titane” reveal was only the first of several chaotic moments at the ceremony, as the spoiled Palme reveal was followed by a best-actor prize for Caleb Landry Jones for the Australian tragedy “Nitram.” When a nervous-looking Jones took the stage, he appeared sick to his stomach, said, “I cannot do this,” and beat a hasty retreat.

Still, by the time a teary Ducournau was brought out at the end of the ceremony to finally accept her Palme, she had embraced the chaos. “This evening has been perfect,” she said, “because it’s so not perfect.”

Julia Ducournau, left with her star, Agatha Rousselle, became the second woman to win the Palme d’Or in Cannes history.Credit…Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Other major winners included Leos Carax, who took the best-director prize for his eccentric musical “Annette,” best-actress winner Renate Reinsve for the Norwegian romantic dramedy “The Worst Person in the World,” and a pair of ties: The second-place prize was split between “A Hero,” from the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, and the Finnish drama “Compartment No. 6,” while the third-prize tie went to the Nadav Lapid film “Ahed’s Knee” and “Memoria,” starring Tilda Swinton.

At the last Cannes film festival, held in 2019, the Palme winner was “Parasite,” the first major prize Bong Joon Ho’s film took on its path to the best-picture Oscar. Though “Titane” is far too gory to become a major Oscar contender, its Palme win firmly establishes Ducournau as a major international director only two feature films into her career.

Correction: July 17, 2021

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the winner of the best director prize. He is Leos Carax, not Leox Carax.


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– July 18, 2021
Titane may not have been the best film at Cannes but it had guts

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