Release: Friday, October 1, 2021 (limited)

đź‘€ Theater

Written by: Julia Ducournau

Directed by: Julia Ducournau

Starring: Agathe Rousselle; Vincent Lindon; Garance Marillier; Bertrand Bonello; Adèle Guigue





Really the best way to follow up a critical success is to make another, while further pushing boundaries to see what you might get away with. Titane certainly tests some limits. This is a potent, unpredictable and morally challenging exhibition that will either have you recoiling or marveling at the audacity of the artist.

A story involving cars, sex and violence sounds pretty mainstream but then this is Julia Ducournau, far from your garden variety director. Thus, gearheads and Fast & the Furious fans need not apply. For the moment, Ducournau seems enamored with transformative narratives that fixate on the body and alienate her protagonists from their own skin. But where her cannibalistic dĂ©but feature Raw was more literal, in Titane it’s more about skin as one’s interiority, their sense of self. Though vaguely thematically related I suspect not even Raw‘s hard-to-stomach content would serve as adequate prep for the wild and uncomfortable ride she offers with her follow-up.

Titane deals with a young woman named Alexia who we first meet as a child (chillingly played by Adèle Guigue) in the jolting opening sequence — a car crash caused by her distracted father (Bertrand Bonello) which leaves the little girl with a titanium plate in her skull. Jumping forward in time Ducournau’s camera shadows older Alexia (Agathe Rouselle) as she heads in for another shift as a sexed-up model working seedy auto shows. When not writhing around suggestively on top of shiny hoods she’s signing autographs for desperate dudes . . . and murdering them when they try to get cute.

Indeed, it doesn’t take long to appreciate Alexia’s wired differently than most, the scar on the side of her head a kind of red marking to warn off her prey. And her prey turn out to be alarmingly susceptible. Acts that begin in self-defense become upsettingly random. We also quickly learn her sexual preferences are in constant flux and, uh, exotic.

There’s a girl, Justine (Garance Marillier), and a steamy moment where you begin to believe the movie is about to course-correct into a more familiar drama about being lost and desperately hoping to be found. However all bets are off when lovemaking with a car turns out far more productive than with her coworker, the former leaving Alexia pregnant and the latter devolving into a multi-room, multi-victim bloodbath that forces her to go into hiding by committing to an elaborate ruse that will have profound physical and psychological impacts.

Though the surreal, foreboding atmosphere never relents and disbelief and discomfort remain constant companions, Ducournau’s monstrosity (a term of endearment, in this case) evolves as a tale of two measurably different halves, distinguished not by quality but rather purpose as well as a noticeable shift in tone away from something fiercely feminine and toward brute masculinity. All the while this moody, bathed-in-neon head trip also morphs into something that for awhile seems out of reach; it becomes relatable.

French screen veteran Vincent Lindon provides a crucial link and the sledgehammer performance needed to match his co-star. He plays an aging fire chief who continues to mourn the disappearance of his boy Adrien ten years ago while blasting himself through with steroid injections, often to the point of collapse. When Adrien seems to reappear in police custody joy is soon replaced by concern over his son’s mute, sullen behavior. He attempts to integrate Adrien back into society, with mixed results.

In only her second film the 37-year-old provocateur is a rising star in her own right. The fact that she manages to turn so many negatives into a small but notable positive takes serious talent. But let’s not get things more twisted than they already are. There are many aspects that help inform the off-kilter vibe she’s going for — the rattling, industrial score and disturbing make-up work loom large — but not one thing, not one person commands your attention like newcomer Agathe Rousselle, an androgynous actor who burns up the screen, leveraging her lack of A-lister conspicuousness into one of the most compelling characters and performances this year has to offer, one that’s hauntingly human-adjacent.

The Palme d’Or winner at Cannes 2021, Titane might be memorable for timing alone, winning in a year in which the pomp and glam returns to the French Riviera after the event’s first hiatus since World War II. But Ducournau has the bizarre content and undeniable confidence to justify the strong reaction. Titane isn’t a crowdpleaser, it’s a crowd shocker, designed to start a conversation or quite possibly end one.

Not quite Titanic

Moral of the Story: I stop short of saying best movie of the year because ‘best’ is such an awkward term to apply to something so uncompromising and unusual, a movie touting a very challenging character to root for, no less. So to be more accurate Titane sits comfortably among the most unique cinematic experiences you are going to have in 2021. For all that is bizarre and unpleasant, I put it in the category of must-see-to-believe (or not). A stunning effort from a name already making noise in the industry. Spoken in French with English subtitles. 

Rated: hard R

Running Time: 108 mins.

Quoted: “My name is Alexia!” 

Strap in and hold on for dear life in the Official Trailer from Neon Productions here!

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; www.chicago.suntimes.com

8 thoughts on “Titane

  1. Fine review my friend. I’ve actually passed up on a couple of opportunities to see Titane. The trailer was just so off-putting to me, and I’m having a hard time finding the right mood for a shock and awe movie like this. I’ll get to it soon, but if I’m honest it’ll be more out of obligation than compulsion (if that makes sense).

    Liked by 1 person

    • The shock and awe factor is definitely strong, but Titane is a far smarter film than a grindhouse-like film or something like that, where shock and awe is the main course. It’s really hard to put into words without spoiling things, but there’s some pretty profound commentary on family and stuff like that going on, it’s a really layered movie. It’s seriously impressive. But I can understand why and how the visuals and the overall aesthetic can be off-putting


    • I actually think you’re going to love this. It’s trippy as hell, and downright crazy. You’ll have to post about it if you get a chance to see it. I’d love to read what you thought!


  2. Almost sounds like a remake of Crash, which it clearly isn’t, but when I heard about this film that’s the first thing I thought about. You’ve got this climbing up to the top of my watchlist now though, as you make this sound pretty amazing.

    Is it similar to Gaspar NoĂ©’s Irreversible (the second film I thought about when reading your post)? I only ask as I could only watch that film once, and while I recently bought that film on Indicator’s new Blu-ray edition, I still can’t bring myself to actually watch it again. Some films just cut too close to the bone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This thing is very much in your face and intense, but I would compare the violence as maybe more Tarantino-esque but a bit grittier than that. I don’t want to characterize it too much but while there’s definitely strong gender dynamics at play, this is not tough to watch in the way Irreversible is. One might even make the argument there are elements of dark comedy strewn throughout.

      Respect to you for picking up the Blu Ray of that, though. That would be one that would sit on my shelf and just gather dust. No way am I sitting through that thing twice.


    • That’s a really good question. It appears it would be 2019’s Parasite, which I saw in early 2020. Although I work with a traditional 5 star system now the concept has always been the same. Top marks don’t mean perfect. I bet No Time to Die could get one as well. I’m so biased with that kind of movie. However like Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, Titane just hit me in such a way that I just am flabbergasted that people out there are conceiving of this shit. It’s amazing and exciting.


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