"... a work that will thrill some and repel others..."

New Director Proves Her Metal with Titane

(102221) Titane is the new, highly touted feminist cyberpunk/body horror film from France. Many were surprised when the film won the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, an award that some consider to be even more prestigious than getting a Best Picture Oscar. Also, its director, Julia Ducournow was only the second female film maker ever to win at Cannes (the first was Jane Campion for The Piano). Her previous feature film was the college vegetarian turned cannibal film, Raw, which was also well reviewed. She has also directed two critically acclaimed episodes of M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV series, Servant.

It might be helpful to some prospective viewers to know that In a recent interview, Ducournow said, “Everything that people find to be repulsive could be shown as human.” This seems to nicely sum up her whole film philosophy. This might just be the most shockingly violent art film since Parasite, although I don’t think it matches that film for importance and quality.

Like Cronenberg’s Crash which was about people who could only climax if they are in a car crashes, this film seems to be satirizing some people’s over reliance/over attachment to technology. This is extremely timely for a people coming out of a Covid lockdown filled with zoom sessions and computer interactions that replaced direct human contact.

The film has two parts, both of which are equally engaging. The first half concerns a young woman who loses her father and becomes a stripper who is constantly hit on. She takes hideous revenge on all those that would molest her. In the second half of the film, she finds peace when she pretends to be a missing boy, and she finds a home working as a fire fighter who everyone thinks is a male.

Titane stars Agathe Rousselle as Alexia, a very unusual young girl who has a unique relationship with cars. She loves them so much that she can’t have a romantic relationship with a real person. The first sign of her mental derangement and love of cars is when in a car ride, she ignores the radio and makes sounds that go with the roar of her car engine.

At the film’s start, the young Alexia talks to her dad’s car and seems to give it a secret message, perhaps convincing it to crash. While in the car she unbuckles her seat belt which distracts her father (played by the director Betrand Bonello) who loses control of the car. She ends up with a titanium plate in her head (hence the title), so she becomes part mechanical or a cyborg. The first thing she does when she gets out of the hospital is she lovingly stroke her parent’s car.

I was reminded of the Queen song, I’m In Love with My Car as well as the T Rex song, Bang a Gong, both of which talks about a woman as if she is a car. But the film subverts the usual trope and depicts the opposite of objectification because here an object is seen as a living, lusty being.

Alexia becomes a very successful stripper who performs in neon fishnets in the while flames dance around her at car shows. Many of the women perform sex acts on the cars to turn on the male viewers. So it is not long before many customers are attracted to her, and when they aggressively hit on her or try to force her into sex, she often reacts violently in self-defense. When a car show patron tries to kiss her aggressively, she impales him with a stick. Then surprise, surprise after the murder she is so turned on that she has sexual relations with her limo. Her preferred means of murder is a single metal chopstick, and she kills quite a few would be suitors. Soon, there are wanted posters of her everywhere.

When police get too close to be catching her, she poses as a boy who went missing ten years ago. She even cuts her hair and tapes up her breasts. She is surprised when in a good stroke of luck, the boy’s dad, Vincent identifies her (perhaps he wants his son to be alive that bad).

Surprisingly when she joins the team of fire fighters (with the recommendation of the boss, Vincent) she blends in better than she ever did before and since everyone thinks she is male, no one hits on her and her serial killing stops, at least temporarily. For her it seems that entering a man’s world in which she is thought to be a man is the perfect way to escape sexual harassment and being seen as a sex object.

In a really weird scene Vincent and Alexis have a slow dance which turns into a fist fight. Vincent wants his daughter/son to be tough and he is wiling to teach her/him the hard way. But all is not well when Alex’s begins expelling black bodily fluids which suspiciously looks like oil indicating that she might be pregnant with the car’s baby. Vincent has his own vices, and he would never win father of the year. When Alex walks in on him shooting heroin, he asks her to help him find a vein.

Although both Vincent and Alex are seriously flawed and pathetic creatures, audience members may sympathize with them with a certain degree (she only murders mostly when she is provoked) because they are both suffering detached, lonely people.

Titane is a disgusting, erotic, hyper violent, sexy, stylish, and original (although the film draws a little from Boys Don’t Cry and Cronenberg’s Crash) piece of work that will thrill some and repel others. But if you have a strong stomach and are looking for something for something daringly different, you should consider checking it out.

Directed & Written by:    Julia Ducournau
Starring:    Agatha Rouselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier
Released:    100121
Length:    108 minutes
Rating:    Rated R for strong violence and disturbing material,
 graphic nudity, sexual content, and language
Available on:     At press time film is playing at local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

TITANE © 2021 Kazak Productions
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2024 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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