Titane: En Route to the Oscars?

The Palme d’Or winner at Cannes this summer, Julia Ducournau’s film has been chosen by the CNC to represent France at the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category.
Agathe Rousselle in Julia Ducournau’s Titane. © Carole Bethuel

The National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC) announced the news on October 12: Titane could represent France at the 94th Academy Awards, to be held on March 27, 2022, in Los Angeles. The film was competing against Cédric Jimenez’s The Stronghold, a film about cops and thugs in the projects of Marseille produced by Netflix (and released on the platform in the United States), and Audrey Diwan’s Happening, the adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s novel of the same title, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in September.

An R-rated genre film, Titane tells the story of a young woman with murderous impulses, portrayed by Agathe Rousselle. The film created a big surprise in July during its screening at the Cannes Film Festival before attracting more than 300,000 spectators at its release in France. In the United States, where it has been in theaters since October 1, the film achieved the fourth-best start for a Palme d’Or recipient, behind Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. Titane also achieved the second-best opening weekend for a French film in the United States since Alexandre Aja’s High Tension in 2005.

Since 1957, when the Best Foreign Language Film category was introduced into the competition (renamed the Best International Feature Film in 2020), France has submitted 66 films to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Academy Awards ceremony. It is the only country to have sent a film every year. As a result, 38 films have been nominated and nine have won, including My Uncle by Jacques Tati (in 1959), A Man and a Woman by Claude Lelouch (1967), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie by Luis Buñuel (1973), and Day for Night by François Truffaut (1974).

But nothing is settled yet for Titane. A first selection of fifteen films will be announced by the Academy on December 21, before the publication of the five nominees on February 8, 2022. To be eligible, each film must have been produced outside the United States, have more than 50% of its dialogue in a language other than English and be released in its respective country between January 1 and December 31, 2021. Last year, Filippo Meneghetti’s film Two of Us was selected by the CNC but did not pass the first selection stage.

“Though France is the most-nominated country in the history of the category [Best International Feature Film],” writes Variety, “it hasn’t walked away with the prize in nearly 30 years.” Since Régis Wargnier’s Indochine in 1993, to be exact. Titane – a “particularly exceptional film,” according to Dominique Boutonnat, president of the CNC – could put an end to this long dry spell!