Titane (FANTASTIC) Is Bold, Striking, and Strong Genre Filmmaking Personified
First Non-Festival Release: July 14, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Julia Ducournau
Writer: Julia Ducournau, Jacques Akchoti, Simonetta Greggio
Runtime: 108 Minutes
Starring: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Laïs Salameh
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival 2021.
A young woman (Agathe Rousselle) commits a series of crimes before leaving town. After suffering from injuries sustained in a car crash years ago, she struggles to understand the changes happening to her body after an encounter with a sportscar. She crosses paths with Vincent (Vincent Lindon), a man who has long been searching for his missing son. Together they form an unlikely relationship built on the lie that Alexia is his long-lost child. Conflicted that she might be going too far and taking advantage of this man, Alexia must make the choice of whether to stay and if she will be able to control the changes happening to her body.
With its bombastic opening and mysterious premise, Titane softens overtime as it makes its way to its revealing finale.
What a unique film! Starting out much like a Cronenberg sci-fi slasher before morphing into a more muted drama, Titane explodes into full-on metallic body horror when it reaches its conclusion. This genre morphing is designed to throw off the viewer and keep them in a state of being on guard. Dark, cerebral, and sensual, it muses on many things and touches on many themes while expounding heavy on the ways grief and trauma shape the decisions we make.
The visuals, however, make the film exquisite. There’s always something interesting going on. One particular subversion I admire most is the changing of the gaze. This happens often with the firefighters whenever they party. It gets almost sexual in a way they are filmed. I got a gay lighting vibe (much like bisexual lighting but obviously different) from the intensity of the pink mixing with the homoeroticism. It’s cool to see the film experiment with this and what the effect it has on the audience.
A commentary on gender and sexuality, Titane has much to say on the fluidity of roles afforded to us. Noticeably there’s a lot of blurring the lines, particularly with Alexia’s character, when it comes to gender expectations, expression, and performance. Between her affinity for cars, her impersonation of a man, and the complicated relationship she forms with Vincent, it’s hard not to see how this indicates some level of gender bending. It’s also not lost on this reviewer regarding Alexia’s attempts to hide her pregnancy throughout the film and how this serves as a central point of tension. There’s not only this fear of what is growing inside her but also shame, excitement, and love.
The success of Titane boils down to strong character work. Lindon moves between intimidating and showing vulnerability. His performance is most surprising to me given his character. Vincent has clearly been through a lot to take in Alexia, despite knowing deep down that she couldn’t possibly be his son. This is regardless of how well she performed as him. There’s this longing in him to make up for whatever mistakes he made that potentially drove Adrien away, which seems to be tied to Adrien’s gender identity. Rousselle gives a strong performance to counter. Alexia is a hard character to sell but she does well enough to engender a combination of revulsion, sympathy, and bewilderment.
While I find Titane a fascinating film, it isn’t without its challenges for audience members. The film itself feels like watching two different movies that are attached together. Both are interesting, but they don’t feel completely realized. This is made more apparent by its strong opening, with rapid fire pacing and unexpected action set pieces slowly fizzling out into something more restrained. Now, these aren’t necessarily flaws but it does make it a difficult film to stay invested throughout. Other than that and aside from some outlandish effects, Titane is a mostly solid genre flick that aims to perplex.
Titane meets all my expectations at once and none at all in the same breath. It’s a unique film that cannot be easily defined and one that does not have easy answers for the questions it poses. Despite its commitment to worthwhile themes and an outlandish plot, Titane is an underwhelming experience that doesn’t quite reach the heights it attempts to touch. Beautifully filmed and meticulously crafted, it is still an incredibly well-made film that lacks only in story. While I’ve seen stronger films this year, Titane is certainly sturdy enough to land in your watchlist as you peruse titles to enjoy from 2021.
Overall Score? 6.5/10