31 Days of Horror: Titane (2021)

I was a big fan of Julia Ducournau’s Raw when it came out in 2016 and have been waiting a long time for a follow-up from her. This year her Palme d’Or-winning feature Titane is available to stream on Hulu, and so that’s how we spent our Tuesday night. www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzq-_f1fW_s

The body horror that’s part of Ducournau’s style emerges within the first twenty minutes of the film, as well as some of her commentary on the hell of being a woman. And she goes harsh. There were several scenes where I had to put my hands up in front of my face. (Always peeking through my fingers, but the hands are up just in case.)

I saw a lot of similarities between Raw and Titane right away. The protagonist of the film is named Alexia (Agatha Rousselle), just like the sister of Justine, the main character of 2016’s Raw. And Garance Marillier who played Justine in Raw appears as a Justine in Titane as well, though for a shorter period of time. It makes me wonder what the significance of these names are for Ducournau and if this will be an emerging theme in later works.

Alexia is involved in a terrible car accident when she’s younger caused by her father trying to discipline her while driving. She suffers a traumatic brain injury and has a steel plate put in her head that appears to alter her personality. When Alexia is finally discharged from the hospital, the first thing she does is hug and kiss the car involved in her accident. She has more affection for it than she does for her own parents.

Several years later, Alexia has grown up into a tattooed young woman who works as a model at car shows. Rather than just posing with the automobiles, Alexia writhes and moans Tawny Kitaen-style on her car, putting together an erotic dance that outshines all the other car models. She’s obviously the star in this niche world. Alexia’s fan base is rabid as she signs autographs, and she’s even chased by one of her overeager worshippers and lets him catch her. This is how the audience learns that she’s a serial killer. Sexual urges seem to lead Alexia into murdering her victims; she starts to engage aggressively with different partners, but then it’s almost as if something shuts off and she gets bored, leading to murder.

News programs appear in the background of early scenes detailing missing children and the recent victims of a possible serial killer, which makes me wonder if Alexia has been killing for a very long time. Alexia still lives with her parents, but after she discovers she’s pregnant with very odd symptoms, she locks them in their room and takes off. In a train station, Alexia discovers that there’s a police sketch of her likeness in connection to the recent murders, but near those are also a photo of a boy who went missing years earlier. With a horrific bathroom makeover, Alexia is able to masquerade as a skinny boy and is reunited with her “father” Vincent (Vincent Lindon), the hyper-masculine captain of a fire brigade.

The pregnancy and Alexia finding acceptance for who she is through Vincent happens in the fraternity-like atmosphere of the firehouse. When the firemen are not battling disaster simulations and situations, they hold rave parties near the firetrucks, and Alexia treats them to one of her special car dances. Some are disgusted while others love it.

I’m with the latter half. Titane was gross, fun, and I completely loved it.

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