Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Julia Ducournau
Writer: Jacques Akchoti, Simonetta Greggio, Jean-Christophe Bouzy
Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Lais Salameh, Bertrand Bonello, Dominique Frot
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/24/21
Opens: October 1, 2021
During the early 1960s Joan Baez made an imprint on the women’s liberation movement with her song, “Wagoner’s Lad,” which begins “Hard is the fortune of all woman kind/ She’s always controlled, she’s always confined…” In a tale of riveting horror, director Julia Ducournau, whose “Raw” about a woman studying to be a vet who has a craving for human flesh, contributes a new movie that is right up her alley. Though some might find it difficult to consider “Titane” principally an allegory–of a woman who is “always controlled, always confined,” nor do you need to do so. This film, which won a Palme D’Or for Ducournau at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, just might knock your socks off. In fact, the energy is so visceral, one might even anticipate a few sensitive souls in the audience heading for the exits, which would be a shame. Moviegoers should be prepared for anything that takes them out of their comfort zones.
In a stunning performance whether playing the part of a woman, Alexia, or of a young man, Adrien, Agathe Rousselle dominates the proceedings, creating potential gasps from the audience whether she uses a knitting needle to kill an aggressive man, or has sex with a car at an auto show, or dances on top of a vehicle at the show or a fire truck. When she gets bored doing this, she kills a few people as though executing a knit-one, pearl-two. It’s not long before the French authorities are after her, transmitting a picture throughout the country. However, Alexia, like our own Brian Laundrie who is suspected of killing his fiancé Gabby, is equally determined to evade the authorities. She could travel the Pyrenees just as Laundrie may be hiking the Appalachian Trail, but she is even more creative. She shaves her head, wraps cloth around her breast to compress it, and invites herself to the home of Vincent Legrand (Vincent Lindon), whose son disappeared ten years earlier and would now be seventeen. At that point, “Titane” enters the territory of John Guare and Fred Schepisi’s 1993 movie “Six Degrees of Separation,” wherein a young scammer introduces himself to a couple as their long lost son.
The film starts at a furious pace. A young girl is injured in a car crash and is fixed up with a titanium plate in her head. Titane means titanium—which reminds me of a dental implant I recently received which, hopefully, does not mess me up the way Alexia’s does. Years late she performs as a showgirl at a motor show, getting off by humping a car and, as we all know what happens when you have sex with a car. You become pregnant. When her knitting needle fails to abort the early pregnancy, she uses the tool as a weapon to kill an obnoxious man, but when one of the women she is fighting escapes to report her to the gendarme, she enters the disguise.
What a show, enhanced by cinematographer Ruben Impens’ bright colors and terrifically realistic fires. Agathe Rousselle, who could be up for year-end awards for an arresting performance in her first professional role, plays neatly off Vincent Lindon, chief of a fire department whose life changes when he becomes involved with his lost-and-found “son” Adrien. Adrien has quite the job to fool the heretofore depressed father, since tightening cloth around your chest is only the beginning of the scam. She refuses to talk, hinting that she had been traumatized during her ten years’ separation, and what’s more she had previously broken her own nose and punched herself around to make the falsification credible. Adrien’s mother (Myriem Akheddiou), who visits the house, becomes suspicious but is willing to play along since “Adrien” is making dad happy again. Not so happy are the young firefighters, who envy the attention that Vincent is giving his “son,” their antipathy leading to some major bullying.
All hell breaks out when Alexia is about to give birth with the help of her putative dad but without the presence of the car she humped. Motor oil drips from her body, a fitting summing up of what is probably going to compete with Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Icelandic entry “Lamb” for the year’s most imaginative picture.
In French with English subtitles.
108 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – A
Technical – A-
Overall – A-