Julia Ducournau brought to tears by extended standing ovation as she takes top prize at Cannes Film Festival

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France’s Julia Ducournau has become only the second woman to receive the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival as the 74th edition of the event drew to a close.

But the official announcement on Saturday of Ducournau’s “Titane” as the recipient of the Palme d’Or was something of an anti-climax because the jury president, Spike Lee, let slip the identity of the winning film at the start of the ceremony.

Even so, the crowd gave an extended standing ovation as a tearful Ducournau, accompanied by cast members Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon, accepted the prize from Sharon Stone.

“Titane,” the most controversial of the 24 films that vied for the Palme d’Or, recounts the story of a sociopathic female serial killer (Rousselle) who assumes the identity of a long-missing young man and forms a bond with the youth’s father (Lindon).

Ducournau, 37, thanked the jury for having “recognised the avid and visceral need we have for a more fluid and more inclusive world”.

Julia Ducournau, centrem has won the Palme d’Or for the film ‘Titane’ at the Cannes Film Festival. Credit: AP

The French director joins New Zealand’s Jane Campion, whose “The Piano” earned her a share of the Palme d’Or in 1993 along with Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine.”

Lee and his colleagues on this year’s jury – Maggie Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Song Kang-ho, Tahar Rahim, Mati Diop, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendona Filho and Mylene Farmer – took advantage of the festival’s “ex aequo” (equally) mechanism for the second and third-place honours.

The Grand Prize was conferred on Iranian filmmaker Ashgar Farhadi’s “A Hero” and “Compartment No. 6,” by Finland’s Juho Kuosmanen.

“Ahed’s Knee,” directed by Nadav Lapid of Israel, and “Memoria,” the creation of Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasthakul, shared the Jury Prize.

FRANCE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021
The 74th annual Cannes Film Festival has been held amid the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: EPA

France’s Leos Carax was named best director for “Annette,” while Ryusuke Hamaguchi of Japan took the best screenplay prize for “Drive My Car.”

Norway’s Renate Reinsve received the best actress award for her performance in “The Worst Person In The World,” the latest film from Lars Trier.

The best actor prize went to Caleb Landry Jones of the United States, who portrayed Port Arthur mass murderer Martin Bryant in “Nitram.”

The Camera d’Or award for best first film was bestowed on Croatia’s Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic for “Murina.”

Cannes Film Festival main award winners

Here are the main prize winners for the 74th Cannes Film Festival.

  • Palme d’Or for Best Film – “Titane” – Julia Ducournau (France)
  • Grand Prix – Shared by “A Hero” – Asghar Farhadi (Iran) and “Compartment No 6” – Juho Kuosmanen (Finland)
  • Best Director – Leos Carax for “Annette” (France)
  • Jury Prize – Shared by Israel’s Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee” and Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul for “Memoria”.
  • Best Actor – Caleb Landry Jones for Justin Kurzel’s “Nitram” (Australia)
  • Best Actress – Renote Revista for Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person In The World” (“Norway”)
  • Best Script – Ryusuke Hamaguchia’s “Drive My Car” (Japan)
  • Camera d’Or for best first feature – Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic for “Murina” (Croatia)

Cannes Festival gong for Port Arthur actor

The man who portrayed Port Arthur mass murderer Martin Bryant has won the Best Actor award at the annual Cannes Film Festival.

The film Nitram, about the events of Australia’s worst massacre that killed 35 people, was accused early of possibly glorifying the killer.

But critics were stunned by the intimate family drama about mental illness that exploded into the headlines in 1996.

The film ends in the seconds before Bryant starts shooting at the former convict colony.

With the memory of the massacre still raw, actor Caleb Landry Jones, 31, said “it was very evident that people were going to be angry”.

“Some people probably pegged the film to be a certain kind of movie,” he said.

“But it is a very sensitive piece and very respectfully made.”

France Cannes 2021 Awards Ceremony
Caleb Landry Jones has won best actor at Cannes for ‘Nitram’, where he portrayed Martin Bryant. Credit: AP

Being Texan helped with his role: “The film is in many ways about the Australian male. I found a lot of similarities with Texas. So I knew what that was.”

He spent three months trying to get under Bryant’s skin.

“I really worked on the dialect for two months in Texas. But I arrived a month before we began shooting and if it wasn’t for that I think I would have failed miserably,” he said.

As he accepted his award, Jones said: “I can’t do this, I am going to throw up.”

“Thank you to the jury … f**k. Thank you Justin … f**k. I can not do this. I am so sad that I can not do this. Thank you so much. Thank you so much!”

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