The French are weird.
Titane is not my favorite movie of 2021, that title still currently goes to my all-time favorite Nicolas Cage movie Pig. It may however be the film that has the most lasting, and dare I saw damaging, impression on my brain. I’m going to be thinking about this one as my mind shuts down before I go to bed for a while to come. An arthouse film by a French director becoming known for her body horror imagery, with a debut actress and an actor I swear I know from somewhere? Count me in. Grab the bucket.
Titane is a body horror film directed by Julia Ducournau, a director who you may have heard of because out of the two feature length films that she’s directed over the past six years, both of them resulted in people barfing at screenings. And while I usually take blurbs like that as a reason to avoid a film, which I have done with Titane up to this point, I can kinda see it here. At the very least I will say Titane is a deeply unsettling film full of very graphic imagery that might make people queasy. Now me I love this shit.
The film stars Agathe Rousselle in her first non-short as Alexia, a woman who has sex with a car and becomes pregnant as a result, and that is all I’m going to say about the plot. It might sound like a cheap copout, but you kinda have to trust me when I say that mentioning pretty much anything else about how the plot moves forward after that would ruin the experience. Trust me, whatever you’ve dreamed up for the plot in this movie? It doesn’t happen like that. I don’t think anyone could successfully predict how this goes forward. Don’t even go on IMDB because the cast listings itself contains some spoilers and other reviews tell you more about the movie that you should see for yourself, despite being technically spoiler free. There’s a reason the trailer is just random shots of people looking at things, fighting, and having a fit.
What I will say about the overall plot is that it is shockingly heartwarming, depressingly sad, and manages to tug at your emotions throughout the nearly two hour runtime. Also in the cast is Vincent London, who I did recognize as the Chief from that animated dog movie Isle of Dogs. Bertrand Bonello is in the film for a little bit and I swear he has a face I’ve seen in a few films but his Wikipedia listing says otherwise. Maybe he makes me think of a French Fred Armison. I don’t know.
The film is very frontloaded with stuff and then the last hour and thirty minutes is a rather slow churn up until the end, but the film gives you time to absorb the characters, see them interact, and watch everything unfold. The ending is kind of obvious from the halfway point, but I don’t think it was meant to be a twist or anything like that. The body horror elements are insanely well done, and it’s pretty interesting how Julia Ducournau took a fantastical concept like being impregnated by a car and worked it out in a way that seems entirely logical how the human body might respond to such a thing. I’m not sure how much of the effects were practical versus CG, but damn do they all look real. It looks like Agathe Rouselle is actually lactating motor oil. I’ve said too much.
The scene that gets the most attention in terms of publicity is at the start where child Alexia cracks her skull in a car accident and the film takes that opportunity for a close up of surgery involving a metal plate being grafted to her skull. I’ll be honest and say that this wasn’t nearly the most disturbing scene of the film in my opinion, it’s just the most clickbait ready. As much as I highly recommend Titane I also recognize that it is deeply unsettling, uncomfortable, and in many scenes too disgusting for some who might have a passing interest.
I think the best way to go into the film is about as blind as this review would leave you. I didn’t read any reviews or know more about the film other than Jay Bauman’s comment on Redlettermedia that it was about a woman who has sex with a car and gets pregnant, and I think I was better off for it. Not knowing the general plot structure of the film leaves you wondering constantly where it might go next, and damn is it a wild ride.
Watch Titane. Indiewire hires morons to write their reviews.