Sunday, October 3

Titane Review


Dir: Julia Ducournau

Starring: Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon

1h 48m


Upon leaving the screening of Julia Ducournau's incendiary second film "Titane," the hallways of the cinema were abuzz with questions, observations, and insights concerning the 108-minute odyssey of violence, sex, love, grief, suffering, and joy. Metaphors were offered, outrage was expressed, confusion was visible on faces, levity was heard with laughter, and smiles were shown as moviegoers walked up and said, "so, what did you think?" Whatever convictions about Ducournau's art one may have, it's undeniable that "Titane" made people feel something. That's beautiful, and so is this confident artist's daring and evocative work of genre-busting cinema. 


"Titane" begins with 7-year-old Alexia (Adèle Guigue) traumatically injuring her head in a car accident. A surgery saves her life, leaving a large titanium metal plate transplanted into the side of her head, which is temporarily held in place by an external fixator that braces her skull. 


The film transitions into adulthood for Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), as she lives a wild, free-spirited life dancing as a car model, moving provocatively upon vintage Cadillacs. But dancing isn't the only lifestyle Alexia leads. She is also a serial killer, utilizing a metal hair stick to penetrate the heads of her victims. 


A botched evening with a potential lover/victim leads authorities to identify Alexia. She flees, cutting her hair, shaving her eyebrows, shedding herself of femininity, and takes on the identity of Vincent, the long-lost son of a grieving fireman named Adrien (Vincent Lindon). Adrien takes Alexia into his care, creating an undeniable bond that satisfies their missing needs from their separate lives. 


Ducournau establishes an unreliable, albeit completely confident, tone from the beginning of the film. Even watching the trailer for this film will not prepare you for the direction "Titane" takes along its winding path of emotional sensation and stimulation. 


The introduction sets into motion the structuring of a horror film, with a young girl haunted by traumas from the past. Ducournau establishes the genre influences early, but the narrative begins to unpeel its layers, revealing that Alexia is a serial killer and has an erotic connection with cars, to the point of binding herself into the backseat and engaging in the emotions of sexual intercourse. The influence of David Cronenberg's "Crash" from 1996, Shin'ya Tsukamoto's "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" from 1989, and Zoe Wittock's "Jumbo" from 2020 are all present. There is more to this plot, but the journey of Ducournau's film, the excesses and boundary-pushing story elements, is part of the many reasons "Titane" will not be forgotten easily. 


As soon as it feels like "Titane" will take a permanent storytelling route, the film shifts gears jarringly into something completely different but still equally complicated. Alexia, having evaded authorities, assumes the identity of a missing boy who is presumed dead. The father, played with an absolute command by Vincent Lindon, is still grieving and is relieved his son is still alive. At this point, Ducournau switches from the violence, horror, and sex of the introduction into a film about compassion, love, and rebirth. It's one of the strangest narrative movements of recent years, but under the steady and assured guidance of director Julia Ducournau, it is executed sublimely.   


There is no easy categorization for this film. While the narrative is frustratingly messy at times, it is undeniable that the filmmaking is entirely immersive. The photography from Ruben Impens is slick and vibrant, with a color palette of cold black and greys that are broken by neon bursts and bright white light streaks. The score by Jim Williams, who also composed "Raw," brings pulsating rhythms, choir chanting, and an undertone of industrial metal instrumentation. It's foreboding from start to finish. 


Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon are exceptional in the leading roles. Their chemistry is a mix of anger and pain but also sweetness and hope. It's fascinating watching them battle their inner demons while they struggle with the growing empathy they have for each other. It's the reason this wild, daunting film works until the end credits. 


"Titane" is not a film for everyone, and that's okay. Cinema needs stories that push boundaries. And film needs filmmakers willing to do daringly confident work. Julia Ducournau is one of those filmmakers, and it's a beautiful, horrific, complicated, and enthralling thing to witness.


Monte's Rating

3.50 out of 5.00

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