In 2016 Raw, her feature debut, French filmmaker Julia Ducournau has crafted an intense thriller in every sense of the word – intense visuals have accompanied an intensely moving story about a new vet school student who finds herself caught up in ever-increasing hazing rituals. disturbing. The film heralded Ducournau as a risk-taking filmmaker, to say the least; it also established her as an artist with a particular interest in placing women at the center of complicated, frightening and often confusing circumstances where they are forced to reveal themselves (often in grotesque and terrifying ways). It’s not a place where many filmmakers are willing to send their heroines, nor where many audiences expect to see them. Now, in her Palme d’Or follow-up film at Cannes, TitaniumDucournau outdoes herself with a brutal, explicit, and powerful film about misogyny, motherhood, and female agency.
Everything on Titanium is brought to maximum intensity, from the richly saturated colors to the catchy soundtrack to Agathe Rouselle’s unforgettable performance as the woman with a titanium plate in her skull since a car accident in her childhood seriously injured. Learning that she now has this piece of metal in her head, young Alexia (Adèle Guigue) copes by forming a kind of emotional bond with the element, and in particular the cars made of this indestructible material. Fast forward to today and Alexia works like a car show girl, writhing and worshiping a gorgeous model car in an effort to attract more male attendees to the show. What happens to Alexia later that night, and what she does in response, forms the basis for the rest of the mad dash. Titanium sends us, and saying too much would ruin the experience that Ducournau, who also wrote the screenplay, has in mind for us.
What can be revealed is that Alexia’s connection to cars becomes very…biblical. The Cadillac she was “driving” to the car show nearly summons her to the garage later that night, and, soaked and naked from the shower she’d just stepped into, Alexia steps into the beast of metal, both… well, there’s no easy way to put it: they fuck. The car fucks her, well. And in some ways, that’s perhaps the least weird thing that happens in this completely bonkers movie (which is definitely not a criticism). Finding herself pregnant (yes, pregnant) near the car, Alexia – who herself functions quite mechanically, with no evidence of conscience, remorse or empathy – must find a quick way out of town as some of between them other disturbing actions (again, trying not to give too much away here) have her sought after by the authorities. Reflecting on her feet, Alexia assumes the identity of a missing teenager, a boy whose aged photo is plastered all over town; in a bus station restroom, she cuts her hair, wraps her breasts and rapidly growing belly (car babies gesture fast!) and tells the first officer she sees she’s the boy that they are looking for.
This boy’s father is Vincent (a surprisingly buff Vincent Lindon), who is so desperate for his son’s return that he immediately confirms that Alexia is Adrien; everything is working perfectly for Alexia, who is clearly not thinking long-term here. She just needs to get out of the spotlight long enough that those looking for her don’t leave her; she never once considered the emotional impact she would have on Vincent, the chief of a local fire department where he is trying to get Adrien/Alexia to train to be part of the force. This middle part of Titanium drags a bit from the film’s engrossing first act and its much-anticipated conclusion, but it’s a fascinating interlude nonetheless as Alexia must navigate everything going on inside her body in addition to the weird new position she finds herself in. is found as a young woman passing for a young man (a young man with a lot of his own drama between his estranged father and mother, to boot). Somehow, in the midst of it all, Ducournau creates a compelling and intriguing parent/child dynamic between Vincent and Alexia, their bond growing stronger in strange and unexpected ways.
Of course, the majority of this twisting and turning narrative leads up to the film’s final moments, because through it all, Alexia’s belly grows and the audience is literally on the edge of their seats waiting to see where it all leads. A few paragraphs are not enough to do justice to all that Ducournau does with Titaniumfrom the emotionless agency Alexia claims in her life (even at the expense of others), to the conversation about gender fluidity and transition, to the implications of impending motherhood, and how women’s bodies adapt and react to the new life growing within them (although motor life in this case). Titanium really is not for the faint of heart. To paraphrase a popular meme, Ducournau basically told himself to hold his own beer, a rise Raw in a way, only a mind as bold, creative and incendiary as his could do that. If you are brave enough, to surrender completely to Titanium will be one of the most unforgettable cinematic experiences you can have.
Titanium is now playing in theaters, notably at the Music Box Theatre.
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