CANNES, France — Spike Lee spoke a little too soon while presiding over the closing ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night.
When asked to announce the first prize, normally the best actor prize, Lee understood that to be the top prize and started to say “Tita…” as the Palme d’Or winner, before the other jury members jumped up to stop him. A confused Lee asked “in English” before they explained the other prizes come, well, first.
In the end, “Titane” was confirmed as the winner of the evening’s main award. It marked only the second time in the festival’s 74 years that a woman has won it, after Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993.
Director Julia Ducournau said the early announcement made the entire evening seem “surreal” as she sat in anticipation. “It’s perfect because it is so not perfect,” she said, when she finally took the stage and thanked the jury for the honor.
Ducournau said she had previously been convinced that Palme d’Or-winning films were perfect. “Tonight, I’m on that same stage, but I know my film is not perfect — but I think no film is perfect in the eyes of the person who made it. You could even say mine is monstrous,” she said.
Her movie almost defies definition. A horror film, or thriller, or twisted feminist revenge fantasy of a serial killer that is impregnated by a car and then takes on the identity of a missing boy, it has been called the most “shocking” film of the festival.
Earlier in the week, jury member Maggie Gyllenhaal told WWD the group had very diverse opinions. It turns out that maybe they couldn’t agree — and it ended up resulting in two ties.
The Grand Prix, a silver medal of sorts after the Palme d’Or, went to both Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero” and Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6,” and the Jury Prize was doubled as well, going to both Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee” and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Memoria,” starring Tilda Swinton.
Weerasethakul, also known as Joe, took to the stage to thank Swinton. “You have given me the best gift of spirit and strength. We talked many times of this dream,” he said of the film, which was many years in the works. “You are one of the most incredible human beings I’ve encountered.”
“Annette,” the tragic musical starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, won best director for Leos Carax. The prize was accepted by Sparks, the Los Angeles-based musical duo that worked with Carax on the film.
Japanese director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi was awarded best screenplay for his adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s ”Drive My Car.” The best actress prize went to Renate Reinsve for the tale of a young woman plagued by self-doubt in “The Worst Person in the World,” and the male prize to Caleb Landry Jones for his turn as the perpetrator of the Australian Port Arthur Massacre in “Nitram.” The latter was too shaken up to even give a speech, and after a few moments, he thanked the audience and smacked himself in the face.
Rosamund Pike was on hand to present the Jury Prize in a red Dior gown, and French actress Adele Exarchopoulos wore Jacquemus. Oliver Stone presented the director prize, saying that movies should not “be made by algorithm.”
But much of the action was happening on the jury couch, where the group — including Gyllenhaal and Mélanie Laurent — tried to keep the ebullient Lee in check. Tahar Rahim sat on his chair to translate for him, and Laurent held the mic, only handing it to Lee when he had to announce a prize.
And finally the ceremony swung back to the Palme d’Or. Seizing his big moment, Lee said: “In my 63 years of life, I’ve learned you can get a second chance. So this is my second chance. I apologize for messing up.”
Except he still missed the mark. Special guest Sharon Stone was slated to present the prize. The stage door dramatically lifted, but Stone didn’t emerge until the jury once again pulled Lee back and he embraced Rahim, laughing.
If there was a script for the ceremony, no one seemed to share it with Lee. But with the audience and the award winners laughing at the comedy of errors, the chaotic energy was contagious and capped off this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Two weeks ago, no one was sure a COVID-19-era festival could be pulled off, but it ended on a high note.