Julia Ducournau’s new film “Titane”, which won the Palme d’Or when it had a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival several months ago and then was recently selected as the French entry for Best International Film Oscar, is wild, provocative, and deranged to say the least. Like her previous film “Raw” (2016), which is about a young woman who must deal with the sudden awakening of her very unpleasant hidden nature, the movie is so crazy, disturbing, outrageous, and shocking that you will wince or roll your eyes more than once during your viewing, but it will firmly grip you right to the end of its loony ride, and, like I did, you may come to admire how boldly and skillfully it goes all the way along with its dark and sensational materials.
The movie opens with the scene showing a young girl deliberately annoying her father again and again while he is driving his car. When her father finally comes to lose all of his patience, an accident unfortunately happens, and the young girl gets horribly injured on the right side of her head. After her following surgery which is depicted with graphic details to make you cringe, she looks like being on the way to recovery, but she is now with a permanent big scar on the right side of her head, and, as reflected by a brief scene between her and her parents, it seems that the accident did not damage her head only.
Several years later, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a young woman now, and cinematographer Ruben Impens’ camera smoothly follows after her as she enters a motor show featuring many showgirls making erotic movements in front of fancy vehicles. She also works there as a showgirl, and she does not disappoint those male audiences at all when she does her work on one of the vehicles.
Not long after the show is over, we get to know Alexia’s dark side hidden by her boldly sensual appearance. When she has an after-show shower along with one of those showgirls, it looks like they are sexually attracted with each other, but then there comes an unexpected moment which will make you wince for a good reason. When she is later followed by some guy with no one around them, she seems to be disturbed by this total stranger, but then it turns out that she is quite ready for such a circumstance like that from the beginning.
Now I have to be more careful about describing the plot for avoiding any possible spoiler, but I can tell you a bit more about how the movie is willing to be more vicious, violent, and bizarre along with its increasingly disturbing heroine. At one point, we get a truly strange moment which is a sort of cross between “Christine” (1983), “Crash” (1996), and “Jumbo” (2020), and that is surely something which must be seen to be believed. In case of one sequence involved with that showgirl who was attracted to Alexia, it tickles us a bit at first, but then it shocks us a lot while never losing its morbid sense of humor, and you may find yourself wondering whether you should be horrified or amused by what is happening on the screen.
Later in the story, Alexia must run away as far as possible, and then there comes another unexpected narrative turn involved with a middle-aged firefighter named Vincent (Vincent Lindon). I will not go into details on why this dude lets Alexia into his residence and then has her work as an apprentice at his fire station, but I can tell you instead that Vincent is also a bit deranged in his own way. Like the hero of Oscar-nominated Belgian film “Bullhead” (2011), he is deeply insecure about his masculinity, and he frequently injects steroid on his buttock, but, to his frustration, his body has already reached to the limit due to its aging status.
As Alexia chooses to stay longer at Vincent’s residence, the movie gives us a number of darkly amusing moments which mainly come from how willing Vincent is to let Alexia stay around him. Regardless of whether he knows who Alexia really is, he gladly lets himself become more oblivious to Alexia’s deception than before because, well, he has never been happier than before. When a certain figure who was once in his life drops by his residence, this person soon comes to see through Alexia, but, after seeing how Vincent is less miserable for being with Alexia, this person lets Alexia go on with her ongoing fraud on Vincent.
In the meantime, there is something which is bound to be exposed from Alexia’s body sooner or later, and the movie has lots of naughty fun with her extraordinary medical status, which is clearly influenced by many body horror films of David Cronenberg. The finale will certainly catch you off guard for its sheer preposterousness, but you may admire how deftly and boldly Ducournau and her cast and crew members handle this climactic part for maximum dramatic effects, and Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon are simply fearless as willingly hurling themselves into their characters’ crazy situation.
On the whole, “Titane”, which deservedly won the People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness at the Toronto Film Festival, is definitely not something you can casually watch on Sunday afternoon, but it is still worthwhile to watch due to its bold style and crazy spirit, and I appreciate how everything in the movie is somehow held together under Ducournau’s confident direction. I think you will have to see it for yourself, and I assure you that you will never forget it regardless of whether you like it or not.