Directed By Julia Ducournau
Starring Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon & Garance Marillier
Before I give you my thoughts on the second film by French director Julia Ducournau, I’d like to give you some additional context…to let you in on my tastes.
Some of my favorite filmmakers are David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, Gaspar Noé and (more recently) Yorgos Lanthimos, Ari Aster and Robert Eggers. These directors give us challenging films that ask us to forget the world we know in order immerse ourselves into a new world… one that they create. To appreciate the mastery of these pieces of art, you must look at film less as entertainment and more as a director’s coping mechanism for existential dread. You need to be willing to be challenged. I assume the aforementioned directors would herald Titane as a brilliant, challenging film that immerses the viewer in a new world. Because I certainly do.
The best way to watch a film is in a mostly-empty theatre without any advance knowledge of the plot. I call this “Optimum Immersion.” Few of the superhero movies I love – the ones where half the fun is feeding into the hype that precedes their release – achieve Optimum Immersion. Films like Titane, however, with a little-known director and an even lesser-known lead, are a small miracle. This film has the power to pull you out of whatever state you’re mired in, and impact you in multiple ways.
Titane is essentially two films in one. As you view the first, you’ll be tempted to say to yourself “Oh. Okay. One of THESE films.” The slick nature of the cinematography in the first act, along with the sensual allure of the main character, will trick even the savviest of festival aficionados into thinking they know what’s coming next. They won’t, and I didn’t either. That feeling of surprise and wonderment makes Titane one of my favorite films of the year.
Unknown Agathe Rousselle is Alexia, a woman with a titanium plate in her head from a childhood car accident. There are few performances in the history film that I can accurately compare to this jaw dropping turn by the French actress, journalist and model. Maybe a mixture of Cécile de France as Marie in High Tension (2003) or Carey Mulligan as Cassandra in Promising Young Woman (2020)? (But even that is saying too much, and, to be clear, you viewing this film without much context is this reviewer’s main goal.)
Speaking of great performances, who the hell is Vincent Lindon? I don’t know, but after his performance as Vincent (a fire chief who has lost his son) we should all be singing the praises of this veteran French actor. His role is both complex yet primitive. I could not take my eyes off him while he was on screen. Each crag and valley of his face spoke to a life that vacillated between pain and triumph.
With Titane, Julia Ducournau has risen to the rarified air of “must-watch directors.” For that reason I will watch her first feature length film Raw (2016) immediately.
And now that that’s settled, let’s compare Titane to the second films of some of my favorite filmmakers. If The Elephant Man and Irreversible are both an A+, and Dogtooth and Midsommar are A’s, and The Lighthouse and Epidemic are both an A-, then Titane, the second film by Julia Ducournau, is an A.