Sunday, January 16, 2022

Titane’s gruesome sex and hyper-violence are the least interesting things about it

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If you can overcome the grisly serial killings and body horror, there’s more to this film than meets the eye

These things are all at least partly true, but they also don’t tell the whole story.

This year’s winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes has a reputation that precedes him: as a shocker; a piece of provocation; a hyper violent, sexually and socially transgressive French art film.

With its hypnotically predatory soundtrack, the trolling pretty ugly Malevolent wickedness and his Cronenberg-like sense of body horror, he’s as stylish as he is captivating.

But the moments that raise eyebrows and make jaws drop titanium are actually the least interesting things about it.

With hairpins to your brain and chair legs to your mouth, sex with Cadillacs and women menstruating motor oil, if you can grit your teeth and avert your eyes for the first 20 minutes of the grisly serial murder, there’s more here than meets the eye.

titaniumThe tremors and overflows of . almost feel destined to divert the viewer from the trail of a far more tender and thoughtful story unfolding. It’s a story about gender and transness, masculinity and its weaknesses, about acceptance, love, intolerance and queerness.

It offers neither easy answers nor decent narrative volumes to which to connect its conclusions.

Julia Ducournau’s second feature film after her great coming-of-age cannibal tale Raw (2016) is about a young French woman, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), who makes her way as a vicious serial killer.

As a child, she was in a car accident and had a titanium plate stuck in her head, which seems to be the trigger for her bizarre and fetishistic relationship with motor vehicles.

She dances sexy on it at those macho car shows where girls in skinny heels sprawl on the hoods; but their interest in attracting other people is minimal at best.

Forced to go on the run for her killing spree, she disguises herself as a boy named Adrien and pretends to fit the ID of a child who disappeared many years ago, finding herself in the role of the long-lost son to a wounded, middle-aged fire chief, Vincent (Vincent Lindon, in a performance of exquisite tenderness).

The plot, however, is secondary to the rugged beauty of its individual moments of bizarre connection. With Rouselle’s boyish face alongside the muscular firehouse specimens, the side eyes and grin are knowing.

But Vincent fiercely defends his “son,” even as he’s realizing that Alexia isn’t his son at all.

She considers stabbing him, but returns to see him darting across the room to The Zombies’ “She’s Not There,” and changes her mind.

He sees her bruised, naked form and tenderly covers her with a towel: Adrien or Alexia, or actually both, he loves his son anyway. It’s in these softer moments that Titane really shines.

Now in cinemas

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