Cannes 2021: why the Palme d’Or for Titanium is a revolution

The “Titanium” shock brings the party to a close. French director Julia Ducournau’s second feature won the prestigious Palme d’Or at this 74th Cannes Film Festival. This honor marks a real break in the history of French genre cinema.

After the tremor, the triumph. Titanium, Julia Ducournau’s second feature film, won the Palme d’Or at this 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. An honor, bestowed by the president of the jury Spike Lee and his members, which overturns all the expectations and the predictions possible and imaginable. “I had never seen anything like it”, Launches the American director during the press conference on July 17.

Radical, hybrid work, off the rails, sometimes funny, always turbulent, Titanium, like “titan”, stands out as one of the greatest surprises in the history of the Festival. A Palme d’Or apart for a film which is just as important. But above all, a price that shakes up many lines.

Julia Ducournau, a Palm for her alone

In seventy-four editions, the Frenchwoman is the first woman to receive the supreme prize on her own and the second after Jane Campion. In 1993, the New Zealander was awarded for La Leçon de piano, tied with Adieu ma concubine by Chen Kaige. Another notable feat, Titanium is just Julia Ducournau’s second film and her first in official competition.

Ten years ago, in 2011, she presented her short film Junior, with Garance Marillier, screened for the 60th edition of Critics’ Week. Five years later, in 2016, she returned and created a first shock with Grave, a feature film this time, which electrifies, here too, Critics’ Week and the world in general.

With this first project, she won six nominations at the César ceremony in 2018. While French genre cinema often goes by the wayside when it comes to honors, Julia Ducournau is already an exception. Titanium is therefore a continuation of the upheaval caused by the director.

Transgression wins

Cannes is familiar with tumultuous films. In 1976, there was Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese, Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino in 1994 – both rewarded under the boos of the public – or even Elephant by Gus Van Sant in 2003. Titanium slips, brilliantly, into this list. The filmmaker, who wanted to offer “an absolute experience“as she pointed out during an interview with AlloCine, marks the spirits for its transgressive madness, its die-hardness and its daring in its way of approaching gender identity and stereotypes.

Cannes 2021: why the palme d'or for titanium is a revolution

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From its opening scene, “Titane” sets the tone.

Of course, this victory also refers to another, that of Crash by David Cronenberg, winner of the Jury Prize in 1996. When the prize list was announced, Francis Ford Coppola, then president of the jury at the time, justified this choice for “his originality, his courage and his daring“and this, in spite of the virulent disagreements with the other members of the jury. If the two films are different in many respects, the comparison between Titanium and Crash has often been mentioned, especially for their way of mixing mechanics with fantasies and sexuality.

Monsters too

Genre films have always been underestimated”, Recalls Mylène Farmer, member of the jury, at the press conference. This Palme d’Or offers Titanium the opportunity to shine in a unique way around the world. The work is essential in a prize list which, since the creation of the Festival, has never offered a significant place to such a vision in the cinema. A revolution on which the filmmaker insists when receiving her prize, awarded by Sharon Stone and Spike Lee: “Thanks to the jury for letting the monsters in.

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