New York Film Festival : Review- The Curious Case of “Titane”

New York Film Festival : Review- The Curious Case of “Titane”
A normal day for Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) in, Titane.

What have you heard about Titane, so far? What do you know about Julia Ducournau and her previous (debut) film, Raw? It should be said for any film; go in as blindly as you can. The less you know, the better. In preparation to write this review, I see that that IMDB description gives away more of the actual meat of Titane compared to what you might hear coming out of its first screenings. The information in that blurb is personally something I did not know before sitting down to watch Titane and I’m happy about that. But, reader beware…in giving my true thoughts on the film, I’m going to need to talk about some specifics.

As a result of a car crash when she is a young girl, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) has a titanium plate fitted in her head. Showing no love to her parents, Alexia seems to be more in love with their car than her own flesh and blood. Now and adult, Alexia is still living with her parents as she works as a model/show-girl at hyped up, neon flashing car shows. She clearly shows a level of anxiety/awkwardness when dealing with other people around her. And, After a run in with a fan that goes “wrong” the strange world that Alexia has created for herself, beings to fall apart.

Adèle Guigue is the young Alexia from Titane
A young Alexia played by Adèle Guigue as she recovers from a car accident.

Let’s start by saying this. Titane is about 75% brilliant and 25% slightly misguided. In trying to tell a story that deals with very typical and world renowned themes, you want a film maker to do something different. I don’t need to see another family drama–no matter how effective it is–that is grounded and depressing. I want to be a challenged and engaged viewer. I’m just not sure how the choices made here within Titane are solid enough to justify their presence. Here is where I will go into specifics. So, if you want to keep your mind bereft of further information, this is where you stop reading.

By now, you might have already heard some of the following: Alexia has sex with and is impregnated by a car. Alexia is a serial killer. Alexia pretends to be the long lost son of a grieving father. While a lot of whispers and talk about the film focus on the former, it is the latter that makes up the majority of this film. It’s the middle part that acts almost as its own McGuffin. It’s the latter portions that I was unaware of before seeing Titane.

Vincent Lindon as Vincent in, Titane
Vincent Lindon has love to give in Titane

What boils down to a movie about the importance of love in a child’s development is presented in out-of-the-box and surprisingly funny manner. But the circumstances of her impregnation feel too loose in the grander scheme. Unless she is feeling the pains of her unnatural pregnancy, the story line seems left behind at times. It isn’t forgotten and still plays a major role, but its inclusion brings up too many questions. Am I missing a broader message about the trans community? Showing love to someone no matter who they are. I can certainly make arguments for the matter used car terminology along with the rest of the story to make this point.

The overarching feeling though is that this is more of a straight redemption tale. Not in anyway forgiving Alexia for the things she has done, but showing what needs to be there for people to not push them into a world of hate and horror. It’s a hard film to boil down to just a few paragraphs without going into the weeds with explanations and deviations. Which is the sign of a good movie, even if you as a viewer didn’t like it.

Alexia before work
You don’t want to mess with Alexia.

It should be said that the way her unnatural child rearing is presented can make the more gorier aspects of what is being sold as a body-horror picture, more palatable for those who are more mainstream film viewers. And, for as uncomfortable as Ducournau can make some situations feel, she is a master at balancing the levity of every situation. The “party” killing spree is as unnerving as it is up-roaringly hilarious. Balance of that nature hasn’t been seen since Lars Von Trier’s, The Kingdom.

Suffice it to say, the thoughts running through my head are impossible to put down in writing (unless I were doing a 120 page dissertation). But, if you’re curious about Titane, but not sure if you can take it…don’t worry. If you feel uncomfortable with one scene. Stick it out. I don’t fully know yet in my own mind if I can call Titane a masterpiece in anyway, but it certainly is surprising and well worth your time.

Final Grade: B+

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