Titane 5* (TIFF 2021)
Dir. Julia Ducournau
Language: French / Country: France / Genre: Body Horror . Runtime: 108 min
"An automobile accident leaves disturbing consequences in this unflinching foray into human extremity from Julia Ducournau." (synopsis by TIFF)
My burning question going into my first Midnight Madness screening of the festival was; how does a film described as “body-horror” go on to win the Palme D’Or at Cannes, placing it in the same league as last year’s formidable Parasite?
The answer is best discovered through your own viewing of the film, preferably cold, and mandatorily in a cinema with fellow movie-lovers and some gullible and squeamish friends. I would love to leave it at that and count on you seeking it out as soon as you can (wide release on Oct 1). But I’m a professional. Let’s talk about this beast.
Every frame and sound of Titane belongs at TIFF’s Midnight Madness. Programmer Peter Kuplowsky introduced the film in glorious fashion; the film’s anthem, “She’s Not There” (The Zombies) rumbles through the Princess of Wales Theatre as the stage is washed in neon red light (speaking of, massive props to NEON on this one, who were also behind Parasite). Peter dances his way onto stage in a full fireman’s outfit (watch the movie; you’ll understand) to roaring laughter and applause.
A perfect setup for what I desperately want to say is a perfect film. And in my humble opinion, it comes as close as it gets. And I am speaking as an audience member first, and as a film student/filmmaker/reviewer second. Titane is relentlessly entertaining; director Julia Ducournau knows exactly what the audience wants, and she delivers more and better. Barely 5 minutes were able to elapse without an eruption of applause, gasps, or shrieks.
"Ducournau knows exactly what the audience wants, and she delivers more and better."
Relying on extraordinarily few lines of dialogue, the film is a visual feast. An explosion of colour, a tsunami of sound design, and two powerhouse lead performances from Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon. Both of these actors know the camera. They are precise, impossible to look away from (although at moments you would be excused if your hands rose to cover your eyes; this film pulls no punches), and masterfully wall us through two of the most perfect character arcs I’ve ever seen.
"Two of the most perfect character arcs I’ve ever seen."
My complaint with movies which succeed so triumphantly in their stylistic flair is often their corresponding lack of substance. Not this one. Titane’s soul is nuanced, compelling, and offers endless opportunity for post-screening discussion (despite its utter bizarreness). It is all at once a dogged examination of how trauma ripples through the character’s life (in a way you will NEVER be able to predict), a battleground between the performance of sexuality versus the aesthetics of sexuality, and a deeply intimate story about characters who desperately need support from one another.
I hope this has been suitably vague, but intriguing. I implore you to see this film. It is unlikely to win Best Picture only because it is too R-rated and too off the walls; otherwise it is sure to surpass most of the rest of this year’s offerings.
October 1st. See it in the cinema. Please.