Ducournau’s Cannes Palme d’Or-winning sophomore feature is a body-horror shocker about the desire for connection, featuring strong performances from Vincent Lindon and Agathe Rousselle.
Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier
Plot: Alexia is a dancer who, after being injured in a car accident as a child, has a titanium plate fitted into her head. Amidst a series of brutal and unexplained murders, her path crosses with Vincent, a firefighter desperately searching for his long-missing son, changing their lives forever.
Awards: Won Palme d’Or & Nom. for Queer Palm (Cannes); Won People’s Choice Award – Midnight Madness (Toronto)
International Sales: Wild Bunch
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing – Identity, Sexuality, Human Connection
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Two standout performances of the year headline Julia Ducournau’s new feature, the anticipated follow-up to her outstanding debut, Raw (2016).
Vincent Lindon, a veteran French actor whom I first noticed in Claire Denis’ Bastards (2013) and later in The Measure of a Man (2015), plays a lonely firefighting captain who desires for connection after losing his young son who had gone missing for a decade.
Playing opposite him is Agathe Rousselle (making her feature acting debut) in a sensational performance as Alexia, a hairpin-wielding serial-killer on the run with a childhood trauma of her own. How their paths cross would set up Titane’s narrative, at least from the second act.
“Where are you from, for real?”
Some critics have brought up David Cronenberg’s name in their reviews of Ducournau’s work, and I think it is no surprise to see that as Titane is a body-horror shocker reminiscent of some of the former’s bolder, more disturbing works.
Titane is slicker though, stylistically in the vein of, say, Nicolas Winding Refn, but lacking the rawness of Cronenberg. Having said that, Ducournau’s film is brutal, particularly its very violent first act that includes one of the most bizarre sex scenes ever conceived this side of contemporary French arthouse cinema.
Having won the Cannes Palme d’Or, Titane should benefit greatly from the critical buzz. It is easy to get sucked into all of that though and forgetting that the film is not just about provocation but an unorthodox treatment that problematises gender—assumptions about the fetishized human body, gender and sexual fluidity, and the extreme lengths one might go to conform to or break free from stereotypes.
In Alexia, Ducournau creates the new perfect ‘prototype’ protagonist who can speak to all of that without barely saying a word.