A leaky breast is an indication that Alexia’s baby father was the Cadillac she had an intense sexual encounter with following an adult car show the night she killed another man by stabbing him in his ear.
But that’s all before she goes on a murdering spree, smashes her nose, and pretends to be the missing son of a steroid-addicted fire chief who agrees: she is his child.
“Titane,” Julia Ducournau’s stunning splatter-drama that premiered on Friday, presents just a sliver of the film’s tragic events. A raw performance by Agathe Rousselle, a newbie, as Alexia, who is carnally addicted to cars, is gaining the film awards and critical accolades.
Many filmgoers who saw Titane were horrified by the gory, outlandish approach taken to the story of a woman who “is driven by her impulses and desires for the dead material that is metal” but “starts getting in touch with her humanity step by step,” as director Jacques Ducournau described her character. “The most shocking film of 2021” was proclaimed by one critic.
On the day before the New York Film Festival premiere of Titane, Ducournau used the term “berserk” far more frequently than any other scary-sounding adjective reviewers have used. “Love” was the word.
It’s “hard to make you experience love, to physically feel it,” she added, cinematically, “but the whole goal of my film is to have you feel what the characters feel.” In order to see whether I could, I decided to take up the challenge and question, “Can you do that with love?”
There is this lovely love story between my character who has never been in love before and a father who does not believe he will ever be able to fall in love again, and they discover what loving really means to one other,” added Rousselle in a separate interview. “Love is the film,” as the saying goes.
At 37, Parisian Ducournau has already become a genre film sensation after just two feature films. This “extreme and ludicrous but nonetheless human” work by Ducournau is “part of the driving force behind what is to come for film,” according to Alexandra West, author of “Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity.”
“She’s challenging audiences and getting audiences to react to cinema and to talk to each other,” West remarked, referring to her work. What a great idea!
Due to Ducournau’s work on Shyamalan’s macabre AppleTV+ series “Servant,” which he is also an executive producer on, Shyamalan took notice. Julia Ducournau wowed the crowds with her performance. He described it as “dark, scary, and cinematic” in a tweet.
Critics have largely praised Titane, calling it “outrageously good,” but they haven’t forgotten the film’s gory audacity (“the work of a mad visionary”). Others wondered: why? “Titane” doesn’t appear to know where it wants to go for all its reckless flair and velocity, according to A.O. Scott’s review in The Times.
“Titane” won the Palme d’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s most prestigious award, in July. A woman had not won the award since Jane Campion won it in 1993 for “The Piano.” In the beginning, Ducournau was sceptical, but she couldn’t stop hugging Sharon Stone. Afterwards, the actress inquired about how she was doing.
What do you mean by, “it feels like history,” when you say you’re not sure? According to what Ducournau had to say, As soon as Sharon Stone’s laughter began, “Honey, it’s over.””
Spike Lee, president of the jury, asked to name the first prizewinner but unintentionally identified “Titane” as the first-prize winner. Ducournau was surprised. “I screwed up” and “I’m sorry,” he subsequently admitted.
According to Ducournau, “it was difficult to find the humour in it at the time.” “However, looking back, I think it’s a lot.”
Ducournau stated that she had already decided that Alexia would be played by a nonprofessional. According to Ducournau, her casting director waited six months after seeing Rousselle on Instagram before hiring her, and the two worked together for a year before shooting.
Rousselle studied ballet and boxing to prepare for a physically demanding role featuring radical transformations, and absorbed devastating monologues from other films and series, such as Laura Palmer’s closest friend’s graveyard speech in “Twin Peaks.”
Additionally, Rousselle spent up to eight hours a day getting in and out of makeup and prosthetics that gave her larger breasts, expanded stomach shapes, and three distinct noses (for a look-if-you-dare nose-breaking scene). Having worked as a model known for her androgyny was a big assistance.
Rousselle claimed, “Gender was never relevant to me.” They would ask, “Do you have boobs?” every time I stepped out of my clothes for an interview or photoshoot.” “I’d say go ahead and deal with it,” I would say.
An sympathetic look at love and family life lies beneath the gore, courtesy of a director who cares profoundly about these topics as well as about women’s roles in their families and communities.
Women, in fact, are undergoing a metamorphosis. “Junior,” Ducournau’s 2011 short film about an adolescent girl’s transition from tomboy to girly-girl, explores this theme. A young woman who gruesomely goes from vegetarian to carnivore to cannibal is the subject of her debut movie, “Raw,” a blood-soaked coming-of-age story.
“Titane” is a continuation of this with Alexia, a woman whose pregnancy (thanks to that Cadillac) and tendency to kill at random are linked to the titanium plate physicians inserted in her brain following a car collision she survived as a child. (The French word “titane” means “titanium.”)
This summer’s release of “Titane” was welcomed by “the nerdy set of high school youngsters who play video games and have blue hair,” according to Rousselle. She claimed that some people had seen the film many times.
Because it addresses issues such as “how do you want to be and who you can be and how you can escape your past and how much control can have over your life,” Rousselle felt the film was relevant to young people. “For them, it’s liberating.”
Nan Goldin, Stanley Kubrick, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and especially David Cronenberg have all inspired Ducournau as she contemplates her next project. Crash” is an example of a film in which “anything that people find revolting could be shown as human” by the director.
According to her, “I am greatly inspired by a vision that defies expectations.