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'Titane' Review

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July 15, 2021
Hunter Friesen
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Titane premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Neon will release the film at a later date.

Containing some of the most disgusting and in-your-face grisliness that has ever graced the silver screen, Julia Ducournau’s Titane holds you like a vice grip from minute one, refusing to let you go no matter how much you squirm. The experience of watching the film can borderline on torture, as violent punishment is enacted in ways that can only be seen to believe. The screening of the film at the Cannes Film Festival resulted in several walkouts within the first fifteen minutes, of which I do not blame certain viewers who are squeamish. Those that can stomach the film will be rewarded with an exhilarating story about acceptance and companionship told by one of the most original emerging filmmakers. 

A newcomer to the film scene, the French auteur (a status she has achieved in my books) Julia Ducournau is the complete opposite of the stereotype of the woman director. She made her debut feature in 2016 with Raw, a story about womanhood and repression that just so happened to contain the element of cannibalism. Like David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Ducournau confidently confounded her audiences with her bold take on a story as old as cinema itself. Titane is proof that Raw was not a stroke of beginner’s luck and that she is the real deal.

Translated from the French word for titanium, Titane follows the life of Alexia, who immediately causes a severe car crash within her first few minutes on screen. This leaves the girl with a metal plate implanted within her head (which is gruesomely illustrated) and a twisted attraction to the vehicle involved in the accident. Like the characters within Cronenberg’s Crash, Alexia can’t seem to help herself from being allured by vehicular and sexual violence. 

After physically recovering from her injuries over the years, Alexia (now played by the self-assured newcomer Agathe Rousselle) now works as an exotic dancer at a car show (very fitting). Through a nearly seven-minute long take, Ducournau traverses the show filled with neon lighting and an electric score. Cinematographer Ruben Impens, reteaming with Ducournau after Raw, shoots the film in harshly contrasting light, often blinding the viewer with lens flares. From this car show, Alexia quickly succumbs to her violent tendencies, forcing her to go on the run, but not without horrifically mangling her face so it would be harder to identify her. This brings her in contact with the local fire chief (a steroid-infused Vincent Lindon), who later turns out to be just as demented as she is, making them a match made in hell. 

Throughout several instances within Titane, audiences have to give themselves over to Ducournau’s vision and accept the logical fallacies, which nitpickers could have a field day with. To be fair, a literal Cadillac becomes sexually involved with a human in the first fifteen minutes, so the laws of reality (and anatomy) were thrown out the window from the get-go.

Like Raw, Ducournau is able to relay a positive message that sticks with you just as much as the gore. Through their interactions, Alexia and the chief find a common emotional ground that brings them together through both lies and deceit. 

However, a problem that occasionally appears is what exactly Ducournau wants you to feel as too many elements come crashing together at odd times. The film wants you to focus on several different storylines at the same time, some of which don't amount to much and could be classified as red herrings. Still, once you cut through the clutter, there’s enough treasure to reward your patience. 

Titane requires a lot from the viewer, such as mental fortitude and an iron gut. It’s an uncompromising vision that bites off more than it can chew from time to time but still sticks the landing due to the duo performances from Rousselle and Lindon, and the boldness by Ducournau to go where no one would dare. Just make sure to watch it on an empty stomach.

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