© Koch Films/Central

France/Belgium 2021

Opening 7 Oct 2021

Directed by: Julia Ducournau
Writing credits: Jacques Akchoti, Jean-Christophe Bouzy, Julia Ducournau, Simonetta Greggio
Principal actors: Vincent Lindon, Agathe Rousselle, Garance Marillier, Laïs Salameh, Mara Cisse

Art. Symbolism. David Cronenberg’s heiress (re Ducournau’s 2016 debut film, Raw). These assessments refer to French writer-director Julia Ducournau’s newest, Palm d’Or-winning film, Titane. Art? The productions values are outstanding, particularly Séverin Favriau and Jim Williams’ music, cinematographer Ruben Impens’ successful handling of night/low-light challenges—kudos to the lighting department, and editor Jean-Christophe Bouzy. Symbolism? One could postulate about that until the cows come home, particularly the plot’s main theme. Body-horror? Definitely. Wikipedia describes the film sub-genre, “(H)orror that intentionally showcases grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body … may manifest through aberrant sex, mutations, mutilation, … gratuitous violence,” et cetera.

The plot is simplistic, at best. The mentally disturbed Alexia (Adèle Guigue) is fitted with a titanium (get it? Titane) plate in her head following a terrible car accident, whereby her affairs with cars begin. Fast forward: the adult Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) cohorts provocatively with cars at auto exhibitions, meets Justine (Garance Marillier), murders a pesky fan and is raped by a macho-machine. She viciously kills a bunch of people—one gets away, escapes law enforcement masquerading as a reappeared missing youth; unbelievably, the dad identifies her as Adrien. Vincent, (Vincent Lindon), a fire captain, integrates him/her into station life; the firefighter, Rayane (Laïs Salameh), is especially puzzled by Adrien’s behavior. Stirred by Vincent’s kindness, nevertheless Alexia/Adrien continues the ruse binding herself.

The plot’s main theme is, apparently, Ducournau’s homage to US author Ira Levin’s 1968 Rosemary’s Baby, and the eponymous Roman Polanski film starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, with Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer. Whereas devil worshipers impregnate Farrow’s character, Rousselle/Alexia is impregnated by an automobile, subsequently gushes motor-oil from various orifice, and ably binds herself reed-thin. Another example of discombobulation in the storyline is a guy she locks in a room of a house she set on fire, and Vincent subsequently revives.

In 1993, the first woman to win Cannes Film Festival’s coveted Palme d'Or was New Zealand writer-director Jane Campion with her critically acclaimed rich period drama, The Piano. (Extraordinary film; definitely a must-see.) It would seem to strike a discordant note giving the Palm d’Or to Ducournau, a body-horror disciple in many women, particularly those in filmmaking. Titane’s MPAA (Motion Picture Rating): R for strong violence and disturbing material, graphic nudity, sexual content, and language. If you must, wait for the DVD. (Marinell Haegelin)

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