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Chaos reigned at the awards ceremony for the 2021 Cannes International Film Festival after jury president Spike Lee accidentally announced the winner of the Palme d’Or — Julia Ducournau’s wildly extreme fantasy drama Titane — right at the start of the night.
The master of ceremonies attempted to laugh off the slip-up and forget that it had happened, but with Cannes’ top prize having been revealed prematurely it set a comically awkward tone over the rest of the proceedings. When it was actually time for the Palme d’Or presentation, Lee acknowledged his mistake.
“In 63 years of life I’ve learned that people get a second chance, this is my second chance,” he said. “I apologize for messing up. It took a lot of suspense out of the night I understand, it wasn’t on purpose.”
However, Lee still had to be stopped from revealing the winner before the final special guest, Sharon Stone, had been welcomed on stage.
Titane, Ducournau’s follow up feature to her lauded cannibal-coming-of-age story Raw (which premiered in Cannes’ Critics’ Week sidebar), combines body horror, female revenge films, and F9-esque car-obsession in what is arguably the most radical film in the Cannes competition this year. Ducournau now becomes only the second female winner of the Palme d’Or after Jane Campion, who won in 1993 for The Piano.
The win was also a victory for Neon, which has Titane‘s U.S. rights, giving the distributor two Palme d’Or awards in a row after Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite claimed the prize in 2019, the last time Cannes was held.
Elsewhere on the night, two films won the Grand Prix award, Iranian drama A Hero from two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) and Compartment No. 6, Juho Kuosmanen’s follow-up to his debut, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, which won the Un Certain Regard prize for best film in Cannes in 2016.
Caleb Landry Jones picked up best actor for his performance in Justin Kurzel’s Nitram, in which he portrayed the disturbed lone gunman responsible for the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, the worst mass shooting in modern Australian history. Renate Reinste was named best actress for The Worst Person in the World, Joachim Trier’s dark romantic comic comedy-drama.
Leos Carax, who opened the Cannes with his musical drama Annette, won the best director award.
The 74th Cannes Film Festival kicked off July 6, two months later than usual, amid safety concerns due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s festival was canceled because of COVID-19.
Lee, who has appeared in Cannes with films such as BlacKkKlansman (2019) and Do The Right Thing (1989), is the first Black person to be president of the Cannes jury. This year’s jury is also the first in Cannes history where a majority of the jurors, five out of nine, are women.
The 2021 Cannes Festival will close with the out-of-competition screening of Nicolas Bedos’ French spy spoof OSS 117: From Africa With Love, starring Jean Dujardin, on July 17.
The winners are as follows:
Grand Prix (two winners)
Asghar Farhadi, A Hero
Juho Kuosmanen, Compartment No. 6
Leos Carox, Annette
Hamaguchi Ryusuke and Takamasa Oe, Drive My Car
Renate Reinste, The Worst Person in the World
Memoria, Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Ahed’s Knee, Nadav Lapid
Caleb Landry Jones, Nitram
Honorary Palme d’Or
Murina, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic
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