Confusion at Cannes as Spike Lee reveals Palme d’Or winner too soon

French director Julia Ducournau’s serial killer odyssey Titane wins top honour

Julia Ducournau's Titane has won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival in what turned out to be the most extraordinary circumstances.

Spike Lee, president of the awards jury, accidentally blurted out the result right at the beginning of the ceremony. Lee was supposed to announce best actor, but seemed confused by the format.

It was a surprise win and a notable one. During the first 20 minutes of Titane, Ducournau’s outrageous follow-up to Raw, the heroine has sex with a car, goes on a gruesome killing spree, and performs a painful procedure on herself using a metal spike.

The film, which has rightly been characterised as one of the wildest to ever feature in the programme, required a fiercely committed performance from Agathe Rouselle. It is not for everyone.


"In my 63 years I learnt that you get a second chance," Lee said, when the time finally came to announce the award with Sharon Stone. More than a few thought back to the Oscar ceremony in which Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced La La Land as the winner. "I keep shaking my head. I don't know this is real," Ducournau said. "I don't know why I am speaking English. I am French. This evening has been perfect."

Caleb Landry Jones, star of Justin Kurzel's Nitram, took best actor for his performance as Martin Bryant, perpetrator of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. "I think I am going to throw up," the American actor said at the podium. "I just cannot do this." Renate Reinsve held it together as she took best actress for Joachim Trier's much admired The Worst Person in the World.

The Grand Prix, essentially the silver medal, was shared between Asghar Farhadi’s escalating drama A Hero and Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment No. 6. The Jury Prize was also a tie: between Ahed’s Knee and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria. Many had seen Weerasethakul’s characteristically dreamlike Thai film as the favourite.

The veteran pop group Sparks, who provided the songs for Leos Carax's musical Annette, were there to accept best director on their collaborator's behalf. An inventive musical about an edgy comedian (Adam Driver), his opera-singing wife (Marion Cotillard), and their strange, gifted puppet baby, Annette transforms into a modern, post-me-too reworking of Bluebeard.

The star-studded awards ceremony provided a fitting conclusion to a festival that has been especially glamorous in terms of A-list presence and haute couture.

Behind the scenes, attending journalists were required to test for Covid every 48 hours in order to receive the sanitation certificate that allowed them to enter screenings and events. The message was loud and clear: the movies are back.

After years of debates concerning gatekeepers, the jury for this year’s official competition was, for the first time in festival history, mostly female. Also, Spike Lee is the first African-American to be president of the jury. Tellingly, Ducournau becomes only the second woman to take the Palme d’Or for directing – and the first to win it on her own.

Awards of the 74th Cannes Film Festival

Palme d’Or: Titane by Julia Ducournau

Grand Prix: A Hero by Asghar Farhadi; Compartment No. 6 by Juho Kuosmanen

Jury Prize: Ahed's Knee by Nadav Lapid; Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Best Director: Leos Carax for Annette

Best Actress: Renate Reinsve for The Worst Person in the World

Best Actor: Caleb Landry Jones for Nitram

Best Screenplay: Ryusuke Hamaguchi & Takamasa Oe for Drive My Car

Queer Palm Award

The Divide by Catherine Corsini

International Critics’ Week

Nespresso Grand Prize: Feathers by Omar El Zohairy

Leitz Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film: Lili Alone by Zou Jing

Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award: Sandra Melissa Torres for Amparo

Directors’ Fortnight

Europa Cinemas Label Award for Best European Film: A Chiara by Jonas Carpignano

SACD Award for Best French-language Film: Magnetic Beats by Vincent Maël Cardona

Carrosse d’Or: Frederick Wiseman