Since the Cannes Film Festival is always headed up by a different group of judges, it can be incredibly challenging to guess what might wind up winning the top prize, the Palme d’Or, in any given year. Sometimes it can feel like the jury was playing it somewhat safe and others as if they are trying to intentionally shake things up. With Spike Lee at the helm of the jury this past July, it is perhaps no surprise that the choice went to a film that feels more like it belongs to the latter camp.
Titane opens on a father and daughter driving to an unnamed destination. The girl, Alexia, is annoying her father by making monotonous engine noises and kicking the back of his chair. When she undoes her seatbelt he turns around to shout at her and gets into a serious accident. Both survive, but young Alexia has to have a titanium plate put into her skull. When we next see her as an adult, she has a strained relationship with her parents, works as a scantily clad dancer at car shows, and appears to be a serial killer. After dispatching a man who attempted to stalk her after she finishes work, she goes back into the empty facility to clean herself and, in one of the more unusual plot developments in recent memory, becomes impregnated by the car she was dancing on earlier. Shortly afterward, one of her potential victims gets away, and she finds herself being hunted by the police, so she cuts her hair, breaks her own nose, and tracks down a man named Vincent, to pretend to be his son who went missing many years ago. Her plan appears to work, as he begins to welcome into his life.
If that all sounds like it’s too much for you, then you’re probably right and this is most assuredly not the movie for you. If you are at all intrigued however, you’ll be in for one of the year’s more memorable movies, that also happens to be surprisingly sweet. Agathe Rousselle excels as Alexia, spending much of the film icily aloof, with flashes of the lonely, damaged girl that is hiding inside. Vincent Lindon is equally excellent as Vincent, a man who has also suffered through his own traumas, is afraid of his own aging body more than anything else, and who wants nothing more than to offer up all of the love that he has inside of himself. When the bizarrely touching story reaches its inevitably tragic but somewhat bittersweet conclusion, it’s hard not to feel moved by the fate of these two tragic souls, even if the movie spent much of its first half making one of them pretty unlikable. Writer / director Julia Ducournau has shown herself to be a talent to watch, and it’s easy to see how this won at Cannes. It is now also France’s official entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and while I would personally like to see it nab a nomination there, it could prove too much for that more staid audience. ★★★★
Rated R for strong violence and disturbing material, graphic nudity, sexual content, and language.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor