In cinemas now.
Following up from 2016’s hit Raw – Julia Ducouranu (previously interviewed by Horror Cult Films back during the release of Raw) is back and sneaking in during the last gasps of 2021 to spoil everyone’s end of year lists with TITANE! Originally making waves for winning the Palme d’Or earlier last year, a first for both a solo female as well as a horror film. After months of hype, it’s finally landed on UK shores.
The film opens with Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) as a child. After a car accident caused by her distracted father, she has a titanium plate surgically placed into her skull. After the operation (the first of many increasingly brutal scenes), she leaves the hospital fixed up, and seemingly with a developed affinity for cars, running off from her parents she embraces the family vehicle. Jumping forward, Alexia is now an adult with a frosty relationship with her father and working as a showgirl for a motor show: dancing on top of customized cars.
Excelling in her work, she’s built herself up a bit of a fan base. After work one night she’s jumped by an overzealous fan, first asking for an autograph but then accelerating in his demands. Understandably, this sets her off on a killing spree. Eventually leading her to abandon her old life, and to seek out a new one. However, none of this before sharing a night of passion with the car she’s been dancing on to advertise. On the run, this culminates when she crosses paths with a firefighter (Vincent Lindon). She takes on a new role, entering herself into his life…
I’m trying to be as coy as possible here because I feel what follows is remarkable. Boiling it down to its plot points also feels as though I’m underselling it. The film is clearly divided into two sections, before and after a characters decision on how to escape the heat from her murderous rampage. The former contains some of the most outrageous and provocative scenes I’ve ever seen on film. I truly felt as though I’d leave the cinema with a six pack with the level of my cringing and squirming through the first 40 minutes. In the latter portion of the film while letting up with its graphic nature it still manages to maintain, and even, increase the pot boiler intensity. Which is when the true nature and focus of the film then reveals itself.
An aspect of the film I really enjoy is that on the face of it, it seems as though it’ll be far sillier than it actually is. Crash is the obvious first port of call for a comparison, but beyond its initial premise, its nothing like Crash. It’s more tonally similar to Ducouranu’s previous Raw. With both having overlap in its approach to dealing with serious personal subject matter through a grimy horror lens. It’s a grindhouse film by the way of arthouse. Scenes of classical music played over family scenes, and the ones of motor oil leaking out of a vagina are all treated equally. A b-movie premise played with earnestness and a completely deadpan face.
Rousselle and Lindon’s performances really hold this all together. Rousselle’s “Alexia” especially shows a dynamic range and intensity through her character. Riding tonal shifts, she manages to handle extremist, loud, bodyhorror in one hand, and in the other, an almost entirely non-verbal, subtle part in a family drama. With great success, she relies heavily on the physicality of the performance and within all contexts, conveys so much visually. The second lead of Lindon’s “Vince” also handles his own as a lost father, who seems almost too keen to take Alexia off the streets. A dynamically layered performance which showcases a man dealing with a relationship; overreaching, regretting, learning, and perhaps choosing ignorance for his own comfort.
Much has been made over the central premise of the Titane, the elevator pitch is that it’s about a woman having sex with a car. And don’t worry, it happens. Multiple times. You’ll get your money’s worth. But that isn’t what Titane is about. While definitely not for everyone. What appeals to me most about this film is how Titane wraps up sincere themes in such a grotesque package. It’s at the same time completely disgusting and extreme, but also a totally heartfelt film about parenthood, relationships, and one’s need for unconditional love. Even with this description I feel it is painting with broad strokes. There’s plenty more to this film and I’m excited to go back and find out what. If you feel like you can stomach it, I can’t recommend this film enough.