‘Titane’ wins top Cannes honor, 2nd ever for female director

France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_77710 Rosamund Pike, left, poses with Nadav Lapid, center, director of 'Ahed's Knee' and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, director of 'Memoria' as they accept the jury prize during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_65837 Valeria Golino, center poses with Ron Mael, left, and Russell Mael, right as they accept the award for best director on behalf of Leos Carax for the film 'Annette' during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_59136 Caleb Landry Jones accepts the award for best actor for the film' Nitram' during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_06733 Vincent Lindon, left, and director Julia Ducournau accept the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_56338 Jury president Spike Lee holds his head in hands after accidentally revealing the film 'Titane' as the winner of the Palme d'Or during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Photo_Call_77690 Renate Reinsve, winner of the award for best actress for the film 'The Worst Person in The World', poses for photographers during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_94179 Sharon Stone, left, looks on as Vincent Lindon, from second left, director Julia Ducournau, and Agathe Rousselle accept the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_80516 Director Julia Ducournau, center, winner of the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' poses with Agathe Roussell, left, and Vincent Lindon during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_46567 Joachim Trier, left, and Renate Reinsve, winner of the award for best actress for the film 'The Worst Person in The World' appear in the audience during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_09214 Director Julia Ducournau, left, hugs jury president Spike Lee after winning the Palme d'Or for her film 'Titane' during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Photo_Call_69661 Asghar Farhadi, winner of the grand prix award for the film 'A Hero' poses for photographers during a photo call following the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Photo_Call_99637 Director Julia Ducournau, center, winner of the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' poses with Vincent Lindon, left, and Agathe Rousselle during a photo call following the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Photo_Call_57204 Director Julia Ducournau, winner of the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' poses for photographers during a photo call following the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_88416 Jury president Spike Lee, center, holds his head in hands after accidentally revealing the film 'Titane' as the winner of the Palme d'Or as jury members Tahar Rahim, left, Jessica Hausner, back center, and Melanie Laurent look on during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Photo_Call_65803 Director Julia Ducournau, winner of the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' poses for photographers during a photo call following the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_77690 Renate Reinsve, winner of the award for best actress for the film 'The Worst Person in The World', poses for photographers during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_53622 Director Julia Ducournau holds the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Photo_Call_71140 Caleb Landry Jones poses for photographers with the award for best actor for the film' Nitram' during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_70217 Jury president Spike Lee, second from left, almost announces 'Titane' as the winner of the Palme d'Or for the second time as fellow jury members Tahar Rahim, from bottom left, Melanie Laurent, and Song Kang-ho look on during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_74205 Jury president Spike Lee, bottom center, almost announces 'Titane' as the winner of the Palme d'Or for the second time as fellow jury members Tahar Rahim, bottom left, Jessica Hausner, back left, Melanie Laurent, bottom right, and Kleber Mendonca Filho, back left, look on during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_95367 Jury president Spike Lee, center, holds his head in hands after accidentally revealing the film 'Titane' as the winner of the Palme d'Or as jury members Tahar Rahim, left, Jessica Hausner, back center, and Melanie Laurent look on during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_10620 Jury president Spike Lee, bottom left, almost announces 'Titane' as the winner of the Palme d'Or for the second time as fellow jury members Tahar Rahim, from back left, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendonca Filho and Melanie Laurent, bottom right, look on during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_61347 Director Julia Ducournau holds the Palme d'Or for the film 'Titane' during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Photo_Call_81405 Caleb Landry Jones poses for photographers with the award for best actor for the film' Nitram' during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_A_Hero_Photo_Call_68286 Director Asghar Farhadi poses for photographers at the photo call for the film 'A Hero' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, July 14, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Titane_Red_Carpet_29629 Vincent Lindon, from left, director Julia Ducournau, Agathe Rousselle, Garance Marillier and Lais Salameh pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Titane' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
APTOPIX_France_Cannes_2021_Memoria_Red_Carpet_79877 Tilda Swinton poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Memoria' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, July 15, 2021.
APTOPIX_France_Cannes_2021_Benedetta_Red_Carpet_72855 Elodie Frege poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Benedetta' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, July 9, 2021.
APTOPIX_France_Cannes_2021_Stillwater_Red_Carpet_02599 Leonie Hanne poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Stillwater’ at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, July 8, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Red_Rocket_Red_Carpet_92826 Director Sean Baker, from left, Bree Elrod, Simon Rex, Brittney Rodriguez, and Chris Bergoch pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Red Rocket' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, July 14, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_66183 Jury president Spike Lee, right, appears during the awards ceremony for the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_57622 Jury members Maggie Gyllenhaal, from left, Jessica Hausner, Mati Diop, Spike Lee, Melanie Laurent,Tahar Rahim, Mylene Farmer, and Kleber Mendonca Filho poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_59194 Rosamund Pike poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_42627 Oliver Stone poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_90974 Sharon Stone poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_40597 Rosamund Pike, left, and Sharon Stone pose for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
APTOPIX_France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_74901 Sharon Stone poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_58805 Jury members Tahar Rahim, from back left, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendonca Filho, Mylene Farmer, Spike Lee, from bottom left, Melanie Laurent, Song Kang-ho, and Mati Diop appear during the awards ceremony at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_87877 Jury president Spike Lee, center, poses with jury members Jessica Hausner, left, and Mati Diop upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_11612 Jury president Spike Lee, centre, poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
France_Cannes_2021_Titane_Portraits_95151 Director Julia Ducournau poses for portrait photographs for the film 'Titane' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, July 15, 2021.
APTOPIX_France_Cannes_2021_Awards_Ceremony_Red_Carpet_86735 Agathe Rousselle, from left, Julia Ducournau, and Vincent Lindon pose for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and premiere of the closing film 'OSS 117: From Africa with Love' at the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
(1/42)

Julia Ducournau’s “Titane,” a wild body-horror thriller featuring sex with a car and a surprisingly tender heart, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, making Ducournau just the second female filmmaker to win the festival’s top honor in its 74 year history.

The win on Saturday was mistakenly announced by jury president Spike Lee at the top of the closing ceremony, broadcast in France on Canal+, unleashing a few moments of confusion. Ducournau, a French filmmaker, didn’t come to the stage to accept the award until the formal announcement at the end of the ceremony. But the early hint didn’t diminish from her emotional response.

“I’m sorry, I keep shaking my head,” said Ducournau, catching her breath. “Is this real? I don’t know why I’m speaking English right now because I’m French. This evening has been so perfect because it was not perfect.”

After several false starts, Lee implored Sharon Stone to make the Palme d’Or announcement, explaining: “She’s not going to mess it up.” The problems started earlier when Lee was asked to say which prize would be awarded first. Instead, he announced the evening’s final prize, as fellow juror Mati Diop plunged her head into her hands and others rushed to stop him.

Lee, himself, spent several moments with his head in his hands before apologizing profusely for taking a lot of the suspense out of the evening.

“I have no excuses,” Lee told reporters afterward. “I messed up. I’m a big sports fan. It’s like the guy at the end of the game who misses the free throw.”

“I messed up,” he added. “As simple as that.”

Ducournau’s win was a long-awaited triumph. The only previous female filmmaker to win Cannes’ top honor — among the most prestigious awards in cinema — was Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993. In recent years, frustration at Cannes’ gender parity has grown, including in 2018, when 82 women — including Agnes Varda, Cate Blanchett and Salma Hayek — protested gender inequality on the Cannes red carpet. Their number signified the movies by female directors selected to compete for the Palme d’Or — 82 compared to 1,645 films directed by men. This year, four out of 24 films up for the Palme were directed by women.

In 2019, another genre film — Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” — took the Palme before going on to win best picture at the Academy Awards, too. That choice was said to be unanimous by the jury led by Alejandro González Iñárritu, but the award for “Titane” — an extremely violent film — this year’s jury said came out of a democratic process of conversation and debate. Juror Maggie Gyllenhaal said they didn’t agree unanimously on anything.

“The world is passion,” said Lee. “Everyone was passionate about a particular film they wanted and we worked it out.”

In “Titane,” which like “Parasite” will be distributed in the U.S. by Neon, Agathe Rousselle plays a serial killer who flees home. As a child, a car accident leaves her with a titanium plate in her head and a strange bond with automobiles. In possibly the most-talked-about scene at the festival, she’s impregnated by a Cadillac. Lee called it a singular experience.

“This is the first film ever where a Cadillac impregnates a woman,” said Lee, who said he wanted to ask Ducournau what year the car was. “That’s genius and craziness together. Those two things often match up.”

On stage, Ducournau thanked the jury “for letting the monsters in.” Afterward, she acknowledged to reporters her place in history, but also said she “can’t be boiled down to just being a woman.”

“Quite frankly, I hope that the prize I received has nothing to do with being a woman,” said Ducournau. “As I’m the second woman to receive this prize, I thought a lot about Jane Campion and how she felt when she won.”

More women will come after her, Ducournau said. “There will be a third, there will be a fourth, there will be a fifth.”

Cannes’ closing ceremony capped 12 days of red-carpet premieres, regular COVID-19 testing for many attendees and the first major film festival to be held since the pandemic began in almost its usual form. With smaller crowds and mandated mask-wearing in theaters, Cannes pushed forward with an ambitious slate of global cinema. Last year’s festival was completely canceled by the pandemic.

The slate, assembled as a way to help stir movies after a year where movies shrank to smaller screens and red carpets grew cobwebs, was widely considered to be strong, and featured many leading international filmmakers. The awards were spread out widely.

The grand prize was split between Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian drama “A Hero” and Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6.”

Best director was awarded to Leos Carax for “Annette,” the fantastical musical starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard that opened the festival. The award was accepted by the musical duo Sparks, Ron and Russell Mael, who wrote the script and music for the film.

Jurors also split the jury prize. That was awarded to both Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee,” an impassioned drama about creative freedom in modern Isreal; and to Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasthakul’s “Memoria,” a meditative film starring Tilda Swinton.

Caleb Landry Jones took home the best actor prize for his performance as an Australian mass killer in the fact-based “Nitram” by Justin Kurzel. Renate Reinsve won best actress for Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World.” Best screenplay went to Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car,” a Haruki Murakami adaptation he penned with Takamasa Oe.

The Croatian coming-of-age drama “Murina,” by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, took the Camera d’Or award, a non-jury prize, for best first feature. Kusijanović was absent from the ceremony after giving birth a day earlier.

Lee was the first Black jury president at Cannes. His fellow jury members were: Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Song Kang-ho, Tahar Rahim, Mati Diop, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Mylène Farmer.

___ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up