Julia Ducournau preview in Austin
It’s only a long sigh.
“Eraserhead” meets “Electra” meets Hyundai Elantra in director Julia Ducournau’s sublime and surreal “Titanium”, which premiered on September 23 at Alamo Drafthouse’s South Lamar Theater, as part of Fantastic Fest. The film came with credit: “Titanium” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in July. It hits theaters on Friday.
“Some stories are universal and shouldn’t be niche,” Ducournau told the festival audience late last week. “Gender is not a niche.”
It is a direct challenge.
The word I used to describe this movie to my editor after watching it cannot be reprinted here – it starts with “bug” and ends with a word your phone automatically corrects as “duck” – and the Ducournau’s film doesn’t just zigzag when you expect it to zigzag. It so subverts any expectation of the viewer that it moves entirely on a different plane. Can something zog?
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The courage it takes to transcend what is normal pumps blood and oil into “Titanium”.
Newcomer Agathe Rousselle, as Alexia, a motor show dancer with a titanium plate in her head and a thirst for violence, and Vincent Lindon, as a character also named Vincent who is a fiercely protective fire captain in search of her missing son, anchors the film with such intensity that it is easy to forget how far the film strayed from the center.
She, almost silent and in sight of steel; him, blindfolded and his eyes wet.
She is divorced from humanity and finds erotic pleasure only in metal and pain. Do you know how the backseat of a car is the privileged place for sexual encounters? In “Titanium”, the car is both the place of coitus and the coital partner. Whatever you think it means: yes.
He’s all too human, a mound of bruised and scarred flesh seeking warmth even though he lives among flames and many beefy firefighters.
When Alexia’s brutal disgust for the carnal world around her sets off on a bloody path, she disguises herself and steps into Vincent’s life. They form a bond built on a lie, but which turns out to be more real than anything either of them has ever known.
As you will understand from these obscure descriptions which seek to preserve surprises, “Titane” is a film about tension. It’s also one of the most viscerally visual films I’ve ever seen. In its first moments, the camera explores the greasy innards of a car, moving and sliding more like organs than gears. So many executives are soaked – bodies in the shower, foaming mouths of murder victims, panties soaked in Penzoil, the release of a syringe into a tired old ass. In the catalyzing image of the film, the headlights of a low-rider appear to ejaculate.
Hey, I’m just a reporter here.
“Titanium” is the most spectacular and twisted genre reveal party, if MC Escher was a genre. Ducournau’s objective embarks with a particular vision of the feminine and the masculine. Feminine flesh is viewed with frank coldness. as with a fan who feeds on Alexia) or tortuously absent (as with his restrained father).
But along the way, the lines between what is expected of a man and a woman blur. The possibility opens up. Alexia, seeking to hide from the consequences of her own violence, transforms herself with this same tool. She breaks her nose on a bathroom sink, and through a razor and lacerating bandages, gets rid of any sign of femininity. She escapes into mute masculinity.
Vincent takes her into his universe, where the performance of the genre has reached its breaking point. He uses steroids to maintain the strength that is expected of him, and the pressure to be strong in the face of losing a child has all but collapsed on him. Alexia comes into her life and feeds her with his own pain. He escapes into the traditional feminine.
It’s a thriller, so crises ensue. And “Titanium” asks: is transformation the same as transgression? Or is it transcendence?
Like the fluidity of its characters, Ducournau’s film is transformed. “Titanium” is often quite funny, including a black sight gag involving a stool and a corpse. Amid the industrial bloodshed, the musical cues are relevant and often hilarious too; Alexia’s Zombies’ “She’s Not There” dance is so literal it puts a smile on your face, and “Macarena” is an honest storyline.
In addition, a host of firefighters have dropped everything in a nightclub in the most exhilarating dance scene since “Beau Travail” by Claire Denis.
The festival season has started:“Titanium” wins the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival, selected by Spike Lee and the festival jury
After the screening of the Fantastic Fest, Ducournau explicitly spoke about myths and symbols in “Titane”. Alexia is metal, Vincent is fire. The Greek Titans of the myth to which the title alluded were monsters, but this monstrosity was also their strength. Knowing that this kind of thought has entered “Titanium” is a gift for a beholder. Madness reveals its secrets to you, if you look closely.
Ducournau told the Austin festival crowd how happy she was to show “Titanium” in theaters, saying it was “good to restart this machine, together.”
It’s an amazing machine, and an exquisite slice of what the hell, to boot.
With : Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Laïs Salameh
Director: Julia ducournau
Rated: R for language, graphic nudity, disturbing material, sexual content and strong violence
Duration of operation: 1 hour 48 minutes
To concern: In theaters Friday