Director and writer Julia Ducournau says France’s decision to pick her film Titane as its official contender in the Oscar race for best international feature film shows changing attitudes towards genre films in her home country.
The film, which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, was chosen over box office hits and other critically acclaimed films to represent France.
“Honestly, I was not expecting it. We’re not a country that values genre films very much,” Ducournau, 38, told Reuters in an interview.
“For many years it’s been looked down on as not being serious enough or valuable enough and it feels like now there is a rising awareness that genre films very much talk about humanity and individuality as well in a deep manner.”
Titane, Ducournau’s second feature film, is a body horror that has shocked and wowed audiences with its violence, a sex act scene between the main character and a vintage Cadillac car, and themes of gender-bending, grief and love.
“When you make films like my films, you always have this fear that you’re going to be misunderstood or mistranscribed… I was very happily surprised with how open-minded and ready to live the experience all the audiences that I met were,” Ducournau said.
The title refers to a titanium plate placed in heroine Alexia’s head following a car accident in childhood. The plate attracts her to metallic elements and following the act with the car, Alexia becomes pregnant.
Following a series of violent outbursts, the adult Alexia, played by newcomer Agathe Rousselle, meets a firefighter (Vincent Lindon), who has never recovered from the disappearance of his young son.
Convinced that Alexia is his adult child, he takes her in.
On the sex scene with the car, Ducournau said she was pleased it had become a talking point and elicited a reaction from audiences.
“As far as the sex act was concerned, I knew that I was not going to show it extensively, obviously, and that it was just going to be like flashes to show that her desire overcomes the ridiculous cliche that goes with this kind of car,” she said.
“It’s like the feminine desire would overcome the car, (which is) an extension of a form of toxic masculinity … So I’m very happy with this scene. I really like it.”
Ducournau’s Palme d’Or win is one of several major triumphs by women filmmakers at festivals and awards ceremonies this year.
“This year has proven that we cannot keep ignoring female voices in the arts,” Ducournau said.
The international feature film category shortlist for the 2022 Academy Awards will be announced next Tuesday, with the final nominees revealed on Feb. 8 ahead of the Oscars ceremony in late March.