In kinky Cannes Film Festival sensation “Titane,” an accident survivor winds up with a metallic plate in her head, wounds ooze blood as black as motor oil and a car-show mannequin dramatically expands the definition of autoerotic climax, getting pregnant after making it within the again seat of a pimped-out Caddy … by herself.
Proving that her cannibalism-themed function debut, “Uncooked,” wasn’t merely an attention-grabbing stunt, French director Julia Ducournau returns to that untamed place the place appetites run darkish, utilizing the human physique as a automobile to deconstruct concepts of gender, want and extremely dysfunctional household dynamics. It’s a daringly queer and undoubtedly controversial experience, leading to a most unusual monster film — a cross between David Cronenberg’s “Crash” and the uterine horrors of Takashi Miike’s “Gozu,” maybe — the place the principle character hardly speaks and what Ducournau is attempting to say is wildly open to interpretation.
From the start, it’s exhausting to establish what sort of antihero we’re coping with — and even what gender the character is meant to be. Bored behind the household automobile, short-haired Alexia kicks the motive force’s seat whereas making low vroom-vroom sounds, prompting Dad (a cameo from director Bertrand Bonello) to lose management. The automobile spins and smashes in opposition to a cement guard rail, knocking the child exhausting into the window and requiring a lifesaving titanium plate to be put in simply above the precise ear.
Revealed to be a lady, Alexia is a human Transformer of types, and this implant might as properly be her first improve. “Titane” by no means makes clear what impression the operation has on Alexia, however appears to experience the concept that she’s concurrently damaged and made stronger by it. The very first thing she does upon leaving the hospital is run out to the car parking zone and kiss the automobile that just about killed her — after which the movie flashes ahead a pair many years to look at her getting way more intimate with vehicles.
From this level on, Alexia shall be performed by tall, angular Agathe Rousselle, a model-actor whose prior work (most notably the gender-subverting quick movie “Searching for the Self”) toys with concepts of androgyny and seduction. Ducournau introduces this newcomer in an elaborate plan sequence, like one thing out of a basic De Palma film, opening with a close-up of now-adult Alexia’s lacerated scalp — a Frankenstein scar that provides her a tricky, punk cred as she struts by the gang.
Alexia works as a dancer for rent, and the lengthy take ends together with her twerking on the hood of a flaming muscle automobile, a present that’s directly gymnastically spectacular and a significant crimson herring. She’s hardly the intercourse object such an introduction may counsel, though Ducournau continues to play methods with that persona for a lot of the first act, as within the post-show group bathe, the place Alexia drops the cleaning soap and will get her lengthy hair tangled in one other dancer’s nipple piercing. In a extra conventional horror film, a personality like this, leaving the venue after everybody else, may wind up victimized — raped or stabbed by a lusty serial killer. However that’s under no circumstances how the night time performs out, and earlier than lengthy, Alexia has demonstrated that she will be able to defend herself simply high quality.
She might, in actual fact, be a lusty serial killer herself, though it’s price stating that she’s far much less desirous of flesh than she is of metallic. Perhaps it’s that titanium plate in her head. Who is aware of? There’s not a lot in the way in which of cinematic precedent for this story, making the film’s logic difficult to observe at instances. Her points of interest, once they strike, are of an virtually magnetic nature, though it’s under no circumstances intuitive why this younger pyro units hearth to her dwelling (together with her mother and father locked inside) after which claims to be the long-lost son of a lonely hearth chief (Vincent Lindon).
With “Titane,” audiences sometimes simply have to present themselves over to the film’s demented momentum, taking no matter perverse pleasure they’ll from Ducournau’s willingness to push the boundaries: Alexia doesn’t cease at chopping her hair and binding her breasts, however decides to demolish her face as properly, smashing it in opposition to the sink in one of many film’s many wince-worthy moments. As if DP Ruben Impens’ velvety, high-contrast cinematography weren’t darkish sufficient, there’s the unnerving low chanting of Jim Williams’ rating to make all of it sound like a Black Mass.
Lindon’s character, Vincent, enters the movie comparatively late, however proves to be way more relatable than its unpredictable protagonist, so audiences will virtually definitely discover their sympathies shifting towards him for the following two acts. Between his grotesquely bulging muscle tissue and the painful-looking injections to his bruised buttocks (probably steroids, however by no means specified), the character is making an attempt to vary his physique as properly — though Alexia couldn’t have identified they share this tendency when she hatched her plan.
She presumably desires to flee the police, though doing so amongst a squad of pompiers (the studly, ultra-masculine firefighters who function a form of hyper-sexualized fantasy in France) is senseless. After which there’s the small matter of her being pregnant to hide. Vincent so desperately desires to imagine that Alexia actually is his lacking son that he appears previous the obtrusive clues on the contrary, however the guys on his crew aren’t satisfied — nor are we. Whereas Rousselle definitely appears putting from any angle, she doesn’t learn as a dude.
Maybe Ducournau was too efficient in establishing Alexia’s feminine aspect up entrance, making it robust for audiences to transition when the characters decides to modify gears. We are able to sense the film constructing to a giant reveal, at which level we’ll uncover no matter Alexia is perhaps carrying in her womb, however the film by no means offers us the instruments to interpret that twist. It doesn’t matter if it’s a child, a bowling ball or a bloody V8 engine once we don’t perceive the way it received there. With “Titane,” typically the shock might be sufficient.