An Ultra-Creative Vision
See It Or Skip It: See It
How do I possibly begin to put into words my rave review for this year's Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner Julia Ducournau Titane?
Wildly imaginative and innovative, and ultra-creative vision. The kind of masterwork that is firstborn from a concept deep within the mind. A violent fucked up beautifully tender work of art. Hands down, one of the best films of 2021.
It was just so… different.
It’s literally unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my entire life. It just has that special unique… something.
Titane isn’t the kind of film that’s thought of as sweet or lovable but it just was. A film that’s ultimately about love. Basically “The Shape Of Water” only it’s a car instead of a fish and our heroine is a serial-killing psychopath whose education on love stems from the WEIRDEST of places.
Titane begins with a little girl called Alexia annoying her father on the highway. She foolishly removes her seatbelt and her father turns around and screams at her causing a horrific car crash. Alexia suffers a traumatizing head injury and has a Titanium plate surgically fitted into her head. As she leaves the hospital, she gives her parents a dirty look but fiercely kisses the car.
Years later, Alexia now in her 20s (Agathe Rousselle whose performance marks what is surely the professional birth of a legendary artist) and wearing the enormous scar on the side of her head, works as an erotic dancer for a traveling motor show. Alexia dances as though she’s losing herself in the crowd even though the crowd can hardly take their eyes off her. Alexia dances for her own identity as well as her own sexual freedom but the eyeing crowds indicate she’s not the only one benefiting from it.
The psychological damage from her accident caught up to her as she’s been living a violent double life for a few months now. Something in her just snapped and she took to unspeakable horror for what turned out to be such little control for her. She casually watches the specific acts of violence being reported on the news while eating cereal. She’s a victim of her own mind but she also isn’t. She’s functioning but she’s not feeling. She has this frightening stillness like someone who is in a coma. By saying nothing she says everything but she’s not saying it to anyone in particular.
Alexia’s crimes don’t personally affect her but discovering that she’s pregnant does. An unplanned pregnancy is often not a good thing but Alexia’s is particularly distressing because she didn’t have sex with anyone. Perhaps pleasuring herself inside the car she dances on, that somehow turned on by itself with the engine hissing as she climaxed wasn’t the smartest idea.
Alexia is soon forced to put any thought of the pregnancy on hold as eventually, her double life finally catches up to her, forcing her to go on the run. At the airport, she sees a poster of a boy who's been missing for years who would be around her age by now. Needing a new identity, Alexia alters her appearance by cutting most of her hair, taping down her breasts and engorging her stomach, and breaking her own nose. She then goes to the police pretending to be Adrien, the missing boy from the poster.
Adrien’s father Vincent (An absolutely heart-wrenching and magnificently beautiful and tender Vincent Lindon who is truly the heart of Titane) has been brutally suffering in loneliness for years. Alexia’s accident took everything from her and Vincent losing his son took everything from him. Vincent clearly suspects that Alexia is not Adrien but is so broken he refuses to do a DNA test and claims Alexia as his son. The gravity of being a parent again strikes Vincent like lightning and he brings the car to a screeching halt while driving home with Alexia/Adrien. He breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing that sounds like what a wounded animal must sound like dying in agony after being run over.
To maintain control in his own life, Vincent regularly injects heavy doses of steroids into his aging body. In his late 50s, he’s physically fit but his addiction to the injections as well as his lost and troubled soul are taking a massive toll on his body. Vincent is a fire captain and while he has no sense of toxic masculinity, he has an ideal image of himself that he pressures himself to maintain for his crew. He makes the mute Alexia an apprentice who soon learns how to be a working fireman. She accompanies Vincent in emergencies and assists in putting out enormous fires.
Alexia who once felt absolutely nothing is slowly learning what it feels like to feel love for someone and for someone to feel love towards her. Vincent’s crew doesn’t believe Alexia is his son and Vincent's defensive denial is a form of growing insanity as much as it is a desperation to hold onto his son for dear life. Alexia meanwhile is growing more pregnant every day even though she’s able to hide it successfully. She has severe scars all over her pregnant body and in the shower starts secreting motor oil from her breasts and vaginal area. Physical and psychological trauma is like machinery. Women’s bodies (AND MEN’S) have been forcibly operated like machinery for years with such monstrous brutality this film just does not shy away from.
Julia Ducournau who wrote and directed this masterpiece may have just shattered the most problematic stigma female filmmakers face: That they are more prone to censorship and shy away from sexuality and brutality that is relevant and crucial to point out. They are not. The ability to truly see clearly is not determined by gender and for women, the world is slowly but surely waking up to that.
Alexia growing something inside her that is not altogether human just as she’s starting to become human is Titanes' sad irony as well as its intersection. The story goes on of course but what it all means is the bigger picture. You know that feeling when you're so overwhelmed after a film because you're so in awe? That’s Titane. It stands alone in the triumph of its own originality. That portrait of love and loneliness is what the film is really about and who it’s dedicated to. All those broken lost souls with minds intellectually smart enough to grasp even the most peculiar of arthouse films. There will never be another film like Titane ever again. Not another Titane.