Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner is an interesting, confounding work in regards to the eager for management over one’s personal flesh.
Picture: Carole Bethuel

A concise abstract of Titane would go one thing like this: A dancer with a penchant for violence goes on the run after a killing spree and seeks shelter in a firehouse by claiming a false id. However that’s a bit like describing Mad Max: Fury Street as being a few group of girls who escape from their traffickers after which return to reclaim the compound wherein they have been being held — technically correct whereas doing nothing to convey the best way the film’s major purpose is to soften your face off. And Titane, the second function from Julia Ducournau, would love nothing greater than to make use of the sheer pressure of its imagery to scale back its viewers to piles of bones and goo. The movie is stuffed with photographs of eroticized human our bodies and much more eroticized automobile ones, the digital camera gliding over the contours and crevices of their mechanical underbellies as they glisten and drip in a means that’s downright obscene. In a sequence that’s already infamous, the movie’s protagonist, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), strides dripping out of the bathe, as if summoned by the flame-covered Cadillac she’d been paid to gyrate on high of earlier that day, and climbs into its again seat to consummate their relationship in an indescribable act of vehicular relations.

Titane isn’t simply car-fucking and self-mutilation, although these are the moments most intent on searing themselves completely into its audiences’ eyeballs. The remainder of the movie is more durable to get a deal with on. Ducournau, who received the Palme d’Or for Titane at Cannes this yr, launched her filmmaking profession in 2016 with Uncooked, about a young person (Garance Marillier) who’s dropped right into a dizzying first semester of hazing, partying, and cannibalistic awakening on the brutalist veterinary faculty the place her older sister research. (Marillier turns up briefly because the one getting munched on in Titane.) Uncooked, regardless of all its flesh-gnawing, remains to be very a lot recognizable as a coming-of-age story. Titane, nevertheless, usually appears like listening to somebody describe a dream that they had — much less due to the film’s logic, as spongy as that may be, than since you suspect you’re lacking important emotional context. As performed by Rousselle, an androgynous magnificence with a formidable glare, Alexia is a personality of few phrases whose interior ideas stay opaque in methods that may be irritating.

In one of many movie’s early scenes, Alexia spontaneously murders an intrusive admirer who hangs round after the automobile present she was working at and will get grabby when insisting on his affections. It’s unclear whether or not this act of doubtful self-defense triggers one thing that’s been increase inside her or whether or not she’s killed earlier than, however quickly she’s hooking up with after which attacking a colleague in a sequence that goes all ugly slapstick. Ducournau has a passion for the intense and, for all her resistance to the time period, there are occasions when Titane feels primarily bent on provocation — like when Alexia, being hunted by the cops, goes about breaking her personal nostril as a part of an try and move herself off as a 17-year-old boy. But when a few of Titane’s excursions into gruesomeness really feel like they’re simply there to make individuals squirm, others start to accrue right into a compelling treatise about eager for energy over your individual physique.

A lot of that longing has to do with gender, particularly after Alexia discovers that her automotive encounter has left her pregnant. Regardless of making her dwelling from her appears, she seems to don’t have any private attachment to them past the sensible — chopping off her hair, maiming her face, and binding her breasts and swelling stomach in an impulsive, unlikely plan to move herself off as Adrien Legrand, an area boy who has been lacking for a decade. When she’s offered to his father, Vincent (a magnificently sad-eyed Vincent Lindon), she appears very very like a 20-something girl with a damaged nostril and a brush reduce, however the grief-haunted man insists, regardless of all proof on the contrary, that she is Adrien, returned to him in spite of everything this time. She strikes out of her world of female efficiency and into the hypermasculine sphere of the firehouse he’s captain of, positioned amongst crew members so loyal they appear keen to go together with the charade.

Alexia does her greatest to slot in, not simply out of self-preservation but in addition as a result of the extra time she spends with the tender, fragile Vincent, the extra she appears to want she might shed her earlier self and simply develop into Adrien for actual, pouring herself into the house he left behind bodily in addition to emotionally. Titane’s simplest moments of physique horror aren’t actually stylized in any respect and must do with the claustrophobia of being trapped in an undesirable being pregnant. If Titane is fueled by its characters’ determined need to have management over their very own flesh, the best way that Alexia’s physique retains threatening to show her is its best supply of panic. She tries, in an excruciating scene, to finish it herself, and the digital camera lingers over the marks and sores left on Alexia’s pores and skin by her day by day makes an attempt to mould her fecund feminine torso into the form she desires. In the meantime, Vincent stares morosely at his personal uncooperative kind within the mirror, making an attempt to push back time by injecting himself with what look like steroids and exploding in frustration when he can’t do the energy workouts he used to. This sense of basic betrayal resonates with Titane’s earliest pictures of a younger Alexia getting a titanium plate in her cranium after a automobile accident. At first, it looks like it simply gave her an affinity with the mechanical, however because the movie goes on, it feels extra like a haunting promise that she might modify herself as readily as any vehicle.

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