TITANE is a new visceral, mysterious, savage piece of work by writer, director Julia Ducournau. I am not sure that I even liked it really, but one can’t avoid admiring the brutal artistry at work. The film opens as Alexia and her father (Bertrand Bonello) are party to a vehicular tragedy resulting in a titanium plate installed in Alexia’s skull. Flash forward, Alexa (Agathe Rousselle) has developed a biblical relationship with vehicles while living with her parents and working as a car model. The film only gets more bizarre from here with Ducournau flexing her artistic powers to spins a yarn of surrealism, violence, mystery, and belonging.
A series of violent attacks coupled with tension at home provokes Alexa to leave her residence for a life on the run. As a person of interest, she disguises herself as the long-lost son of local hero and fire chief Vincent (Vincent Lindon). But then there is the very strange, perhaps even dreambound pregnancy that she is dealing with as a result of her relationship to a particular fire-emblazoned Cadillac. Her baby bump continues to grow, her breasts excrete something akin to motor oil, and all the while she is trying to hide under the disguise of being the heir to the throne of a fire station.
Somehow though, things work. Why? It starts with the fine-tuned vision from Ducournau. Here she returns to the next-level body horror of her previous film RAW. Identity, fetish, and obsession meld to become one insatiable primal Cronenberg-esque drive that overrides all reason or grip on reality. We begin to connect with and believe in Alexa’s physical and mental connection to vehicles and their machinery. We identify with that inexplicable desire masterfully portrayed by Rousselle in a powerhouse performence and hence, we see our obsessions in hers.
Throughout the performances are great to breathtaking. The entire film hangs on Rousselle’s convincing performance. We do not like her, we do not understand her, yet we identify with her character’s mercurial narrative. Another bravaura performace comes from Lindon as Vincent. A broken man looking to find closure at any cost, his beleaguered Fire Chief is at once a harrowning and pitiful depiction. That’s not to mention profoundly strange as he outright ignores all evidence that the sone he believes he has recovered is anything but.
None, and I mean NONE of this odd film would work without the assured vision with which Ducournau leads. There are moments of inexplicable absurdity. There are scenes of sudden violence. There are moments of gasp-inducing absurdity. Still we are given the mental cues that we are in the hands of an artist and we go along for the ride. I am still ruminating on TITANE. I am still digesting its imagery and its exquisite construction and mechanical beauty. The sign of a brillaint talent is that while you may not connect with a piece, you are effected and left with plenty to think about. I may not have loved TITANE, but damn that’s a fine piece of work.
7 Out of 10