• Post category:Movies
  • Post last modified:December 18, 2021

Titane: Backseat Lover

When the time came for the first prize of the 73rd Cannes film festival to be announced, jury president Spike Lee misunderstood and thought he was asked to reveal the top prize, the Palme d’Or. So, Titane was prematurely announced as the evening’s major winner. Perhaps Lee was embarrassed at first, but it wasn’t a big deal; in the end, the snafu became a memorably lighthearted moment. The jury was clearly excited about a film that defied genre labels and leaned toward something David Cronenberg might have made. Those kinds of films have rarely been Cannes winners. Many critics loved Titane. In my case, it’s the kind of film I desperately wish I loved, but my mind won’t allow it.

A titanium plate fitted into her head
Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a, shall we say, troubled woman. As a child, she was involved in a car accident where she hit her head so severely she had to get a titanium plate fitted into her head. The experience didn’t stop her from gently embracing the car as soon as she got out of the hospital. As an adult, she’s working as a model at an auto show, dancing in a tight outfit, simulating sex with a car. Alexia is also a serial killer, having murdered several men and women while still living at home with her parents.

After a house party where she kills several people, Alexia can no longer hide; she’s on the run and also discovers that she’s pregnant after a sexual encounter between her and a car. Leaking motor oil, she alters her appearance and steps forward as Adrien, a teenager who disappeared as a child. Telling the police that she’s Adrien as a young man, she’s accepted by his father, fire fighter Vincent (Vincent Lindon).

A strange, intriguing idea
A colleague of mine, who liked the film better than I did, told me he thought of it as a thrillride, indicating that one shouldn’t ponder it too much. I can accept that explanation. Director Julia Ducournau broke through with Raw (2016), a film about a vegetarian who tastes meat for the first time and becomes obsessed with flesh. Ducournau grew up in a household of doctors and her fascination with bodies is a constant theme in her movies; there are many scenes in Titane that will have you squirm in your seat, because of the weird, intimate visuals and because of the strange, intriguing idea of being impregnated by something entirely different from a human being.

We are treated to two outstanding performances by Rousselle and Lindon as the sick killer and the sad fire captain who keeps torturing his muscular body with hormone injections; having Alexia in his life as Adrien is a fantasy that he needs. Titane is never boring, that’s for sure; it’s a melange of themes and ideas that keep you consistently entertained and, in the case of some viewers, shocked.

To me, it’s a frustrating experience. Part of it is a body horror movie with fantastical elements; I would have loved to see that explored to a greater degree. I would also have gone along with the idea of a sexual thriller taking dark and twisted turns. I felt far less interested in a conventional but emotional story about a father reunited with a son who’s not really his son but a stranger he learns to love. In this movie, we get pieces of all that mixed into a preposterous brew that leads to a logical but unsurprising end. 

Titane 2021-France-Belgium. 108 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Julia Ducournau. Cinematography: Ruben Impens. Cast: Agathe Rousselle (Alexia/Adrien), Vincent Lindon (Vincent), Garance Marillier (Justine), Laïs Salameh, Myriem Akheddiou, Bertrand Bonello.

Cannes: Palme d’Or. European Film Awards: Best Makeup & Hair.



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