by Jason Osiason
At 37 years of age and with only one feature under her belt, ascending filmmaker Julia Ducournau miraculously became only the second woman to win the Palme from the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Returning to genre after her abnormal debut feature Raw, Ducournau’s daring filmmaking electrified audiences and the jury led by no other than the legendary director Spike Lee. Titane is publicized by its distressing plot twists and rousing imagery, but there’s far more under the hood than initially expected.
The film’s beastly first act more or less overplays its anticipated provocations to mixed results. There are sudden outbursts of gnarly and grimacing violence and a set piece so berserk, that it should not be mentioned here. Loud, thumping music cues on the soundtrack signify what is to come. Ducournau’s sweeping digital prowess sets an immediate note of frenzy as she captures lead character Alexia’s (Agathe Rousselle, in a mighty and forceful performance) close relationship with danger. Alexia suffered an auto accident as a young child, which dominated the trajectory of her life and inadvertently put her on course to meet Vincent, a conquered father desperate for contentment. Vincent Lindon depicts the character with exasperation and passion, his hulking frame equally overwhelming and welcoming. Like Vincent, the film gradually shifts its tormenting gears into something amendable. Lindon and Rousselle’s chemistry bubbles anchor the potentially irrational and outlandish plot developments with a sense of believability. They are entrapped by a dance in two of the film’s greatest sequences–the first scary and off-putting, the second beautiful and cathartic. The second number is plastered in purple neon lights and guided by one of the year’s best needle drops with “Light House” by Future Islands.
Titane is a film of swagger that not only expresses cinematic delights but also a keen realization of trauma and our attraction to trauma. That powerful, unshakable sensation of having mutant control over the body.