Titane is lurid, provocative, violent and outrageous, requiring complete suspension of disbelief; it’s also a trippy, edgy, visceral and thrilling ride, with surprising infusions of tenderness and fragility. Julia Ducournau’s incendiary work reminded me of early Cronenberg’s nightmarish techno-body-horror – Crash in particular, and Videodrome too, in their erotically-charged human-machine interfacing – and early Verhoeven’s punk-sensuality, along with explorations of gender fluidity, sexual transgressions, hypermasculinity, male gaze, and boundary-bending inorganic relationships which were Ducournau’s own. The deliriously extreme first half is set off with the asynchronously folksy “Wayfaring Stranger” and a car accident that leaves young Alexia with a titanium plate in her cranium and alien-like scars around her ears. Flashforward few years later, and Alexia (Agathe Rousselle in a scintillating, chameleon-like and ferocious debut) – introduced through a hypnotic tracking shot, to the electrifying beats of “Doing It a Death” – is an exotic dancer at car shows, whose writhing performances leave cuckolded men salivating. She harbours a devilish murderous streak that gets triggered by human intimacy, and an auto-fetish that leads to what has become a cause célèbre and leaves her pregnant. When the trail of bodies becomes unmanageable upon a darkly comical spree, she shape-shifts into an alternate gender identity – through DIY facial reconfiguration and body strapping – and becomes the long-lost son of a heavily grief-stricken, steroid-pumping firefighter (Vincent Lindon) in the film’s brooding second half. The delicate bond that develops between the two lonely, lost individuals – trapped in their respective netherworlds – was interspersed with an affecting slow dance to “She’s Not There” and a stunningly liberating solo atop a car – where else? – to a sexier rendition of “Wayfaring Stranger”. Eclectic electronic soundtrack, therefore, was integral to this brash piledriver.
Director: Julia Ducournau
Genre: Thriller/Body Horror/Psychological Drama