Audacious originality and brazen genius always deserves to be commended. If only I’d known what Julia Ducournau was capable of after her prior outing Raw. Titane is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Though decidedly not for everyone, those with an open mind and strong constitution will be in for a demented yet oddly touching treat. After taking the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and blowing away folks at the Toronto International Film Festival, Titane now comes to the New York Film Festival. Not only is it one of the most original movies at NYFF, it’s one of the best. Simply put, it demands to be seen.
Titane continually evolves, almost as if it’s several films in one. For those curious about the title, the press materials for the flick uses this definition for the word…”Titane: A metal highly resistant to heat and corrosion, with high tensile strength alloys, often used in medical prostheses due to its pronounced biocompatibility.” Knowing that doesn’t matter too much for enjoyment of the movie, but it does put you in the right mind-frame for this original effort.
The less known about the plot going in, the better, so I’ll tread somewhat carefully here. After a very peculiar introduction to the character as a child, we meet Alexia (Agathe Rousselle). Dancing at car shows, she also shows some fairly violent tendencies, preying on predatory men. Between a unique experience (to put it mildly) with an automobile and an evolving thirst for violence, Alexia needs to get out of dodge in a hurry. A tragedy provides her with an opportunity for reinvention, in more ways than one.
As Alexia is trying to go on the run, fire chief Vincent (Vincent Lindon) is still holding out hope that his missing son Adrien will be found. Lost a decade ago as a boy, everyone else has given up the search. Then, one day he’s told that Adrien has turned up. Arriving to see his son, we clearly see that it’s Alexia in disguise, but for one reason or another, Vincent accepts the lie. From there on, a unique familial bond begins to form, even as Alexia/Adrien is dealing with something almost impossible to describe.
The performance by Agathe Rousselle is something to behold. Bold and fearless doesn’t do her justice, since Rousselle, much like Ducournau, couldn’t care less if you find it all to be out there. They’re only concerned with telling this singular story in their own distinct way. Rousselle is almost like a wild animal, slowly being tamed by the understanding displayed by Vincent Lindon in an empathetic turn. Lindon and Rousselle end up with a chemistry that is wholly unusual, but oddly makes sense. Garance Marillier is among the supporting players, but Lindon and Rousselle are who command your attention.
Filmmaker Julia Ducournau is eager to shock here, but Titane sneaks up on your with its emotional quotient. Never once worried about catering to audience expectations, this is more graphic, more violent, and more out there than Raw, somehow. Yet, even while dealing in extreme situations (I’m being vague so the surprises aren’t spoiled), the oddball heart of it all is in evidence. For about 110 minutes, Ducournau weaves a tale that’s almost impossible to describe, but is something you’ll never forget.
Titane will linger with you for some time. Nothing else at NYFF is at all like it, but moreover, nothing else this year is like it. I’ve been brief in this review because I just want you all to see it and experience it for yourself. Give it a look when it opens this weekend…you can thank me later.