“Love Is a Dog From Hell” reads the tattoo between Alexia’s breasts, simply one in every of many sprinkling her lanky body. The tattoo is a crimson flag to any and all who need to get near Alexia, not simply near her breasts, however near her normally. Most individuals ignore the crimson flag. Possibly they only assume she’s a Charles Bukowski fan. Regardless of the case could also be, they don’t “get” Alexia. Alexia is the feral and compulsively murderous stripper-gearhead on the heart of French filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s delirious body-horror “Titane,” named for the titanium plate holding collectively Alexia’s cranium after a childhood automobile accident.
As with Ducournau’s function debut “Raw,” “Titane” is fascinated by the physique’s vulnerabilities and urges its ravenous processes and the way the collective “we” try to cope with all of this, both by gorging ourselves or, conversely, by sublimating the necessity into different issues. Neither course is nice and/or socially acceptable. You may manage the inherently uncontrollable. “Titane,” this yr’s Palme d’Or winner on the Cannes Movie Pageant, is an excessive film, violent and pitiless and humorous, however the area it offers for not simply tenderness however contemplation makes it an “extraordinarily” thought-provoking movie as nicely.
No matter is “mistaken” with Alexia, and there may be a lot mistaken, pre-dates the accident that cracked her cranium. She is first seen, a dead-eyed “dangerous seed”-type baby (performed by Adèle Guigue), glowering at her dad as she makes engine-revving noises in live performance with the shifting automobile. It is exhausting to keep away from the concept she needs the automobile to crash, or a minimum of wills the crash into being. Rising from the hospital, stapled-together scar swirling around her half-shaved head, she throws her arms across the automobile, kissing the window. A rapturous reunion. Minimize to years later: Alexia (now performed by Agathe Rousselle), head nonetheless half-shaved, makes a dwelling stripping at automobile exhibits. She is a solitary and forbidding determine, much more so when she out of the blue murders an aggressive fanboy who follows her to her automobile. Later that evening, she crawls right into a flame-painted gas-guzzling Cadillac for an additional rapturous reunion, solely this time it is sexual. The automobile intercourse leads to a being pregnant and titanium-plated Alexia stares in terror as her stomach bulges out, her breasts leak motor oil, and black oil pours out of her vagina within the bathe. Her physique is now on a journey that does not embrace her.
In the meantime, although, our bodies pile up. Alexia is a relentless murderess. These murders are ugly within the excessive. After leaving a witness at a homicide spree, she is compelled to go on the run. When she sees a computer-generated picture of what a well-known lacking baby named Adrien would appear like right this moment, Alexia will get an excellent thought. Without hesitating, she breaks her personal nostril, binds her breasts and pregnant stomach, and goes to a police station, presenting herself because of the long-lost Adrien. That is such a perverse and humorous plot twist, and it alerts the second half of the movie, very completely different in really feel from the primary. Adrien’s father Vincent (a wonderful Vincent Lindon) is a muscle-bound hearth chief who dissolves into tears when he sees his son. Alone in the evening, he shoots himself up with steroids, jabbing the needle into his bruised ass, his physique a veiny tortured façade of now-failing impenetrability.
However, appearances aren’t what they appear. Vincent is not his floor, simply as Alexia is not hers (or Adrien is not his). The hearth home is a womanless world of macho half-clothed males, and but the décor is gender-coded, the inside lighting a delicate neon pink, the lavatory tiles shiny pink. As full-throttle as the primary half of “Titane” is, it is the second half the place issues actually take off, the place Ducournau digs deep into her topic, shifting into very unusual and complicated waters. Alexia will not be a personality a lot as she is the ragged wild-eyed personification of Battle-or-Flight (albeit pregnant with a child fathered by a Cadillac). However, Vincent … Vincent is an actual character, and Lindon brings profound perception to the desk, revealing the confusion and little boy’s worry surging beneath these muscle masses. The metaphors are multifold, and Ducournau well retains issues fluid, permitting issues to work subliminally and/or visually versus explicitly within the language. There is a scene the place Vincent, eyes struck dumb by distress, sinks his head down into Alexia’s lap. The 2 figures are bathed in pink mild. This Pietà picture does quite a lot of heavy lifting, metaphorically.
The language of “taking care” of each other comes up repeatedly. What does “taking care” even imply on the planet of “Titane”? All the things appear so perilous and transitory! The significance of tenderness—and the aching tenderness causes to these unaccustomed to it—stands in stark distinction to the human physique’s inexorable processes, the physique’s irritating penetrability and fragility, magical titanium plate or no. These completely different conflicting concepts do not precisely hold collectively on a regular basis, and “Titane” seesaws between its grisly first half and family-melodrama second half (making it both top-heavy or bottom-heavy, relying on the way you have a look at it). The deeper thematic revelations might come too late within the sport for these both turned off or turned on by the frenzied pitilessness of the primary half, however, Ducournau, creative, daring, fearless in her strategy and sensibility, would not lose her nerve. Neither does “Titane.”