At the Cannes Film Festival 2021, a divisive Palme d’or for “Titanium” by Julia Ducournau

What stung Spike Lee? Beyond his blunder – he announced the Palme d’Or at the start of the ceremony – the president, accompanied by his jury, this year rewarded films whose subtlety is not obvious. The Frenchman Leos Carax, prize for directing for Annette, drowns his rock opera in an excessive formalism that ends up annoying. Just as heavy, Titanium, Palme d’or therefore, lives up to its name. Like the resistant and stainless metal often used in the industry, the feature film by Frenchwoman Julia Ducournau is an ornate object for a festival: a B series dressed in a thesis film tuxedo.

→ CRITICAL. “Annette”, rock opera on the brilliant darkness of the soul

Genre cinema has nothing to be ashamed of. Two years ago, Parasiteby the Korean Bong Joon-ho, showed how the codes of this cinema could serve as a virulent critique of social inequalities. Titanium doesn’t have that strength. Julia Ducournau takes up the theme of her first film, Severe, a gory allegory of the emancipation of a young woman, a veterinary student, who discovers cannibal impulses. In this new horror film, prohibited for children under 16, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), lives with a titanium plate in her skull since a car accident caused by her father and maintains carnal relations with… brand vehicles !

A machine to kill anything that comes near her, the young woman pretends to be the missing son of a firefighter – Vincent Lindon, bodybuilder and desperate – in order to escape the police and then thinks she has found a refuge and a father ready to love her as she is. This second film in the film, sometimes funny, would be almost touching if it were not weighed down with a grand-guignolesque ending.

A film adorned with all the trappings of modernity

Multiplying quotations from horror classics, from Christinaby John Carpenter (1983), to Crash, by David Cronenberg (1996), Julia Ducournau seeks to follow in their footsteps, with a certain talent. But its effects turn to show when they serve an ideological gloubi-bulga mixing mythology, feminism, sexual identity and transhumanism. The filmmaker also thanked the jury for recognizing ” the need for a more inclusive and fluid world “. “Thank you also to the jury for letting the monsters in”, she added. 7e art, from Georges Franju to David Lynch, had not yet waited for her to bring much more subtle monsters to the screen…

Second director only to receive a Palme d’or, 28 years after Jane Campion for The Piano Lesson, The Frenchwoman is a young woman whose film, adorned with the trappings of hypermodernity, seduced a jury whose prize list failed to affirm a clear choice between classicism and renewal. Hence a profusion of prizes awarded to works with very different cinematographic styles.

Double-shared prices

The Grand Jury Prize went to A hero by Asghar Farhadi, whose implacable mechanics masterfully embraces all the ills of Iranian society and impresses with the mastery of his story and his staging. The director nevertheless had to share his prize with a young Finnish filmmaker, Juho Kuosmanen, almost unknown until then. Railway and tender chronicle of an encounter between two solitudes – an archeology student and a worker – in post-Soviet Russia, Compartment 6 seduced by its freshness and its humanity.

Conversely, by awarding a jury prize ex aequo to the Ahed’s kneeby Nadav Lapid and Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the prize list rewarded two filmmakers with a singular and radical approach. The interpretation prizes are betting on youth by rewarding the grace of the Norwegian Renate Reinsve who embodies a young woman in search of herself in Julie (in 12 chapters) by Joachim Trier, while American actor Caleb Landry Jones wins for his not always very subtle incarnation of the author of a mass murder in Nitram, by Australian Justin Kurzel. Disappointment comes from the beautiful and subtle Drive my car, by Japanese Ryusuke Hamaguchi, winner of the international critics’ and ecumenical jury’s prize, who only leaves with a screenplay prize.


Palmares :

Palme d’Or : Titaniumby Julia Ducournau

Grand Jury Prize:Ex aequoA heroby Asghar Farhadi and Compartment 6 by Juho Kuosmanen

Jury Prize: ex aequo Ahed’s Knee by Nadav Lapid and Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Best Actress Award: Renate Reinsve in Julie (in 12 chapters) by Joachim Trier

Best Actor Award: Caleb Landry Jones in Nitram by Justin Kurzel

Staging price: Leos Carax for Annette

Script price: Ryusuke Hamaguchi for drive my car

Golden Camera: Murinaby Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic

Golden Eye: A night of knowing nothing, documentaryby Payal Kapadia; special price at Babi Yar. Background by Sergei Loznitsa

Prize of the Ecumenical Jury: Drive my car, by Ryusuke Hamaguchi; special mention for Compartment 6, by Juho Kuosmanen

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At the Cannes Film Festival 2021, a divisive Palme d’or for “Titanium” by Julia Ducournau