'Titane' Is the Most Outrageous Film You'll See This Year
You won't know what hit you.
Titane, the French fantasy-drama Palme d'Or winner from Raw director Julia Ducournau, is one of those movies where it's best to sit down in the theater knowing absolutely nothing about it. The film's many twists and unexpected story beats are best seen with fresh eyes, and as such, I'll try not to give away too much in this review. It's difficult to do, since part of what makes Titane as great as it is are its utterly daring and sometimes completely shocking plot elements—par for the course for a director whose feature debut was about a young veterinary student who discovers a craving for human flesh. Given that, I should have seen at least some of what Titane has to offer coming from a mile off, but I never did, delighting instead in the awe of watching the most bizarre and wonderful story of the year unfold.
The movie begins with a young girl experiencing a devastating car crash that leaves her with a fundamentally ruined relationship with her father and a titanium plate in her head to replace her crushed skull (the titanium is, of course, from where the film draws its title). Years later, an older Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) works as a dancer, flaunting her spiral scar on the side of her head from her childhood surgery, and seemingly finding more in common with machines than with people, drawn to the very vehicles that once nearly ended her life (to delightfully preposterous results, inspired as it was by a nightmare in which Ducournau imagined she was giving birth to car engine parts). Her inability to find commonality with humans eventually leads to violence, which leads to an escape, an improbable disguise, and a strange yet oddly moving relationship with a grieving firefighter (Vincent Lindon) who injects himself daily with steroids to alter the shape of his body.
Most of Titane, if not all of it, is obsessed with bodies and changing them: the mesmerizing brutality of Alexia's scar, the erotic clink of body piercings, the masculine control over bulging pecs and biceps, the similarities between a feminine torso and the cold chrome lines of a muscle car. When Alexia takes on the persona of another, her stomach-churning body alterations are enough to make you cringe in your seat. Suffice it to say, Titane is not for those of weak constitutions, who might be perturbed by, say, someone killing someone with the sharp end of a hair ornament.
But it's also shockingly good: sexy, hilarious, gross, a film that takes the concept of "daring" and ratchets it up to eleven. There are shots, entire scenes even, you will not believe you just watched. It honestly kills me that I am working so hard not to spoil anything, but trust me, it's better this way. With Titane, Ducournau creates an entire fantasy world where the lines between human and machine are forced to blur, to the shock of the characters involved and the openmouthed delight of everyone watching from the audience. Whether you're ready for it or not, it'll rev your engine.