At the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, a Palme d’Or that divides for “Titanium” by Julia Ducournau

What fly 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. French Leos Carax, best director award for Annette, drowns his rock opera in an excessive formalism that ends up annoying. Equally heavy, TitaniumPalme d’Or therefore lives up to its name. Like the resistant and stainless metal often used in industry, the feature film by French director Julia Ducournau is an ornate festival object: a B series dressed in a thesis film tuxedo.

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

There is nothing to be ashamed of in genre cinema. Two years ago, Parasite, by Korean Bong Joon-ho, showed how the codes of this cinema could serve a virulent critique of social inequalities. Titanium does not have this strength. Julia Ducournau takes up the theme of her first film, Serious, gory allegory of the emancipation of a young woman, a veterinary student, who discovers her cannibalistic impulses. In this new horror film, forbidden to under 16s, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), lives with a titanium plate in her head since a car accident caused by her father and has carnal relationships with… branded vehicles !

Machine to kill everything that approaches 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 weighted down with a grand-guignolesque ending.

A film adorned with all the finery of modernity

Multiplying quotes to horror classics, Christine, by John Carpenter (1983), at Crash, by David Cronenberg (1996), Julia Ducournau seeks to follow in their footsteps, with a certain talent. But its effects turn out to be blatantly when they are at the service of an ideological gloubi-boulga 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. The 7e art, from Georges Franju to David Lynch, hadn’t expected it to bring much more subtle monsters to the screen…

Only second director 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 finery 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.

Doubly shared prices

The grand jury prize went to A hero d Asghar Farhadi, whose implacable mechanics masterfully embraces all the ills of Iranian society and impresses with the mastery of its story and its 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 a meeting between two solitudes – a student in archeology and a worker – in post-Soviet Russia, Compartment 6 seduced by its freshness and humanity.

Conversely, by awarding a jury prize ex aequo to the Ahed’s knee, by Nadav Lapid and Memoria Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the prize list rewarded two filmmakers with a singular and radical approach. The interpretation prizes are the bet of 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 the 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. The disappointment comes from the beautiful and subtle Drive my car, by the Japanese Ryusuke Hamaguchi, winner of the International Critics’ Prize and the Ecumenical Jury, who only leaves with a screenplay prize.


Palmares :

Palme d’Or : Titanium, by Julia Ducournau

Grand jury prize:Ex aequoA hero, 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

Director’s Award: Leos Carax for Annette

Price of the scenario: Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive my car

Golden Camera: Murina, by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic

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

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

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At the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, a Palme d’Or that divides for “Titanium” by Julia Ducournau

Hank Gilbert