French filmmaker's bonkers thriller Titane takes arguably the most prestigious prize in cinema, making her one of only two women directors who've won the prize throughout history.

By Joey Nolfi
July 17, 2021 at 03:12 PM EDT
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French filmmaker Julia Ducournau has made history for women at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

In a slight alteration to the usual run-of-show, this year's jury president Spike Lee seemingly made a premature announcement that the Raw director's latest film Titane — about a serial killer impregnated by a car — had won the prestigious Palme d'Or prize, according to multiple reports from those covering the event.

Agathe Rousselle, Julia Ducournau and Vincent Lindon attend the final screening of "OSS 117: From Africa With Love" and closing ceremony during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 17, 2021 in Cannes, France.
Julia Ducournau wins the 2021 Palme d'Or for 'Titane.'
| Credit: Daniele Venturelli/WireImage

The 37-year-old's feat marks only the second time in history that a woman director has won one of global cinema's most esteemed prizes, and the first time a woman has won the prize on her own. Acclaimed director Jane Campion became the first woman to win the Palme d'Or for her 1993 film The Piano, though she shared the prize in a tie with Chen Kaige and his Farewell My Concubine.

Nearly 20 years later, a Steven Spielberg-fronted jury awarded the film festival's prize to Blue Is the Warmest Colour helmer Abdellatif Kechiche and his two leading actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, who became the first stars to share the Palme victory with their film's director.

Elsewhere at the 2021 festival — pushed back to July from its usual May slot due to coronavirus complications altering last year's Cannes rollout — Lee's group of industry voters named Leos Carax as Best Director for his work on the Adam Driver/Marion Cotillard musical Annette. They also awarded Best Actor to Caleb Landry Jones for Nitram and Best Actress to Renate Reinsve for The Worst Person in the World. Since 2010, four men have gone on to win or be nominated for the Oscar after taking Best Actor at Cannes, including Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), and Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory); that number dips to only one among women, when Carol's Rooney Mara won Best Actress at Cannes and received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the following year's Oscars.

Lee's 2021 Jury Prize — voted on by such members as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, and Tahar Rahim, among others — went to Ahed's Knee by Nadav Lapid and the Tilda Swinton-led Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the latter of which won the Palme back in 2010 for his feature Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Though not a reliable portent of Oscar tastes, Cannes has vaulted key contenders into the race in recent years, with Palme winners like The Tree of Life, Amour, and Parasite making headway in the Best Picture race over their respective years of release.

See the full list of 2021 Cannes Film Festival competition winners below:

Palme d'Or: Titane by Julia Ducournau
Grand Prix: (Tie) Asghar Farhadi — A Hero and Juho Kuosmanen — Compartment No. 6
Best Director: Leos Carax — Annette
Best Actor: Caleb Landry Jones — Nitram
Best Actress: Renate Reinsve — The Worst Person in the World
Jury Prize: (Tie) Nadav Lapid — Ahed's Knee and Apichatpong Weerasethakul — Memoria
Best Screenplay: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi — Drive My Car

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