[Editor’s Note: In advance, I am going to spoil every single thing about this movie. Can’t think of how to discuss it otherwise. If you have any inkling that you want to see it, stop reading and go see it. It’s great. Julia Ducournau don’t make crap. K. On with the show.]
This review was going to happen eventually. I had to watch it a few more times to let it digest, plus cooler heads prevailed on the other thing I was going to write about. So, now felt like a great time.
I first heard about Julia Ducournau relatively recently. I missed when Raw came out, so I didn’t see a build up. I heard about this in pretty much the same way many film nerds did…
And that’s how I first heard of both Julia Ducournau and Titane. So, I went right out and found Raw (currently available on Netflix btw). That will get its own retrospective review one day, but to give my brief thoughts: it’s a body horror, coming of age story about cannibalism. Its a masterpiece of budget filmmaking, and I have no idea how Ducournau got half the shots she did on the budget she had. Everyone should see it. It is intense as shit, and I will have to get some fucking balls up to watch it again.
So after that, I have been counting down the DAYS till Titane hit streaming. Picked it up the day it hit Amazon.
I think calling this a “car-fucking movie” is not giving this film enough credit. This film is an allegory about loss through the lens of unwanted pregnancy where one of the progenitors happens to be a car.
That’s the thing about Julia Decournau, she uses her body horror to explore these uniquely human experiences (and in all cases so far, experiences of women). One of the first thing that happens in the movie is our lead being stalked by a guy after a car show where she is a model dancing on the aforementioned car. And its this incredible shot of this long hanger where the drunk sleazebag his chasing her down from a long range. You as a viewer know exactly what is going on, and it’s tense as shit.
Which makes when she shoves her hair chopstick through his fucking ear that much more startling. Did I mention yet that she is also a serial killer?
I think that decision was made in part for the rest of the movie to work. Our lead, Alexia, is…solving her problems in life through killing them away (which culminates in this great scene of her chasing an increasing number of witnesses to her crimes down). And now she is pregnant (yes from a car) and doesn’t want it…
I have never seen a film that went this hard on pregnancy fear, and I don’t know HOW they did it. She tries to abort the car fetus with the killing chopstick (and yeah they show the attempt). She is leaking motor oil from her breasts. Her pregnancy is quick and she has constant struggles with the womb.
How they got all those prosthetics to look that good, I don’t fucking know.
Ok, I am rambling, let’s get some easy stuff all the way.
Julia Decournau is a visionary behind the camera. I love the way she shoots the shit out of a scene. She manages to effortlessly pick the best shot to get the most mileage out of the particular grotesquery that she is shooting.
The acting is phenomenal in this with a little return performance Garance Marillier from Raw. But holy shit Agathe Rousselle’s performance as our lead Alexia. Holy shit. What she puts herself through. It is an amazingly physical performance, and she deserves whatever she gets from it (I hope she gets some awards).
Whoever is Decournau’s special effects department, they are goddamn heroes. They are the new KNB.
Did anything not work for me? Two things…
First, I am not sure at all that she stuck the landing on the pivot the movie takes half way through. Alexia kills too many to go on the run. She happens to see one of those “aged” photographs of a missing child from 20 years ago, and disfigures her body to look like the “aged” image of that boy This is where our other lead Vincent comes in. A firefighter who is just happy to reunite with his lost son. Clearly, this has been the hole in his life, and now Alexia/Adrien has filled it.
The issue I have is…I am not sure the turn 100% works… I think the story Decournau is telling in the second half of this movie is a fine story on its own, but its just so tonally different than the first half. Its extremely sweet and tender, where the first half is so goddamn rough. Much like wine, it is possible this turn will age well, but right now, on my first few viewings it feels harsh. Just to all of a sudden have this person thrust in the movie who is like a good person…doesn’t quite work.
Second, the ending. And this is the smallest of criticisms. At this point we have been through so much. And Alexia…as herself…has been accepted by Vincent…as the daughter he never had? Reincarnation of Adrien as a woman? Unclear. Not sure it matters. Anyway, Alexia is now giving birth, and Vincent gets a second shot at being a father….to the car baby.
That’s my issue. The baby we see has a chrome spine and presumably skeleton…its the body horror fan in me…I wanted the baby to come out really all the way car or all the way machine. It being…mostly baby…with a little bit of chrome…I dunno. Felt empty for how heavy and intense the movie is.
Well where does that leave us. I have thought long and hard about this, and here’s where I end up:
3.5/4 – Its possible these turns will age well, and I could see this becoming a 4/4 over time. For now though, that’s what I feel. But I want to be clear about this. This is a much easier film to watch than Raw. I will definitely return to it over the years, and if I have to introduce people to Decournau’s work, Ill point to Titane. Also, I will see ANYTHING Decournau makes from now on. She has really god an amazing talent.
I am now REALLY excited to see what the fuck the Oscars are going to be like. It has to get nominated. I want to see that nomination presentation. Good luck to whomever has to do it.