By Tyler Gibson
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 lead 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’s sudden outbursts of gnarly and grimacing violence and a set piece so berserk, 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 both exasperation and passion, his hulking frame equally overwhelming and welcoming. Much like Vincent himself, the film gradually shifts its tormenting gears into something amendable. Lindon and Rousselle’s chemistry bubbles and they anchor the potentially irrational and outlandish plot developments with a sense of believability. They are entrapped by 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 needledrops 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 having a mutant control over the body.