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Gore queen Julia Ducournau wins Cannes top prize
French director Julia Ducournau (C) poses on stage with US actress Sharon Stone (L), French actor Vincent Lindon (C), French actress Agathe Rousselle (2ndR) and US director and Jury President of the 74th Cannes Film Festival Spike Lee after she won the Palme d'Or for her film "Titane" during the closing ceremony of the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on July 17, 2021. Valery HACHE / AFP.

CANNES (AFP).- French film director Julia Ducournau, who on Saturday won the Cannes festival's top prize for "Titane", developed a taste for skin-crawling bodily transformations early on in life thanks to her parents, both doctors.

Exploding into the spotlight at just 34 with her debut feature film "Raw", Ducournau quickly established herself as a singular and audacious filmmaker.

The coming-of-age tale with a gory twist, featuring a teenage vegetarian who finds she likes human flesh and blood, brought critics close to fainting when it was shown at the 2016 Cannes festival.

The impact of "Titane", about a young woman who has sex with cars and kills without a care, was much the same, with critics shielding their eyes during several scenes.

Getting a horror film short-listed for the top prize at Cannes was in itself a success, she told AFP during the first week of the festival.

"I've always wanted to bring genre cinema or outlandish films to mainstream festivals so this part of French movie production would stop being ostracised," she said.

"People need to understand that genre cinema is a way to talk about individual people and about our deepest fears and desires in a profound, raw and direct way."

The polished appearance of Ducournau, now 39, appears in stark contrast to the messy array of gore seen in her films.

The Paris-born daughter of a dermatologist father and a gynaecologist mother, both film lovers, suggests her fascination with some of the most disturbing aspects of the human body has deep roots.

"Even as a little girl, I would hear my parents talk about medical topics without taboo. That was their job. I liked to stick my nose in their books," she said while promoting "Raw".

Ducournau was visibly pleased at Cannes's "Titane" news conference when a critic compared her film to David Cronenberg's "Crash" and David Lynch's "Blue Velvet".

She also cites Brian de Palma, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Na Hong-jin as influences.

When she was only six, she watched "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in secret and, growing up, devoured the chilling gothic stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

Ducournau was a brilliant student, earning a double degree for French literature and English before studying script-writing at the prestigious Femis film school in Paris.

Her 2011 short film "Junior", shortlisted for the Cannes festival's critics' prize, already showed a liking for physical transformation.

"Genre cinema is an obvious choice for me, in order to talk about the human body. The human body that changes and that opens up," she told Telerama magazine.

© Agence France-Presse

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