French film Titane and its director Julia Ducournau are both, to put it mildly, “not for all tastes”.
Ducournau’s previous feature Raw had a heroine with an interest in cannibalism. Alexia in Titane takes it to the next level.
Even the film’s best friends concede that the film is transgressive and violent. But in a good way, they say.
The film opens with closeups of expensive engineering, the insides of an American classic car.
Cut to a man driving with the radio on, trying to drown out the noise of his bored 10-year-old daughter Alexia.
Finally, he snaps, turns to yell at Alexia, and crashes the car.
Alexia wakes up after surgery. She’s fine on the surface, but she’s now got a metal plate in her skull, made of titanium – Titane.
Years later, Alexia is a famous erotic dancer, often performing at car festivals. The fans flock around her, but she coldly brushes them off.
Except sometimes a fan won’t take a hint ….
Look out, fan boy, Alexia takes no prisoners. After she stabs one fan to death she then, as far as I can see, gets a taste for this sort of thing. Titane doesn’t really go in for bourgeois concepts such as motivation.
Perhaps he just wasn’t her type. Shortly afterwards she starts an affair with a woman dancer she met at a car show.
Well, look out woman dancer too. For even less reason, Alexia bumps her off. Followed by one of her flat-mates who’s a possible witness. And then three more people at the flat.
“How many of you are there?” says Alexia exasperatedly.
That’s the tone, at the start at any rate - callous and flippant, embracing Titane’s genre roots. And then there’s the film’s defining scene. There’s a thunderous knock at Alexia’s door. It’s a big Cadillac who won’t take no for an answer.
This is the test for many people, I imagine. You either go with “car romances serial killer” or you don’t. Perhaps it helps if you imagine a Transformers movie directed by Jean Luc Godard.
It’s time to go now, obviously, with the cops and the media hot on Alexia’s trail. “Have you seen this mysterious, blonde, beautiful woman killing random people?” read the headlines.
So, Alexia cuts off the blonde hair, then batters her face to make it less beautiful, and certainly less recognizable….
Then she tightly bandages her body so she can pass as a man. A man called Adrien. She chooses “Adrien” because it’s the name of a long-missing person.
She thinks that if she can convince Adrien’s grieving father, Vincent, then he’ll confirm her new identity. She convinces Vincent with remarkable ease, it has to be said.
Vincent is the captain of the local fire station, surrounded by strangely glamorous firemen who all look like Chippendale dancers. Particularly when they dance together after putting out a fire. As you do.
Vincent has convinced himself that the newly arrived Adrien is in fact his son, and the film turns its attention to their relationship.
Or at least it does if you’re not still side-tracked by the fact that Adrien/Alexia is increasingly pregnant, and the identity of the father doesn’t bear thinking about.
If you’re worried about this, you may not be the target audience for Titane. But if you – like the jury at the Cannes Film Festival obviously – have been hanging out for a combination of art film and video nasty, featuring the excesses of David Cronenberg, David Lynch and Claire Denis, well here it is.
Like it or hate it, Titane is certainly like nothing I’ve seen before. Though there may be a reason for that.