Arts & Entertainment

This French horror takes weird to new levels

Julia Ducournau becomes the second woman in history to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes with her second theatrical release, “Titane”.

First and foremost, “Titane” is graphic. And I mean seriously, flinch-inducingly graphic. Is it also extremely unpredictable and weird (actually disturbing might be a better choice of words)? Very, but that has to be secondary. Cinema never ceases to amaze with the sheer number of novel ways they can kill people. Alexia’s methods are undeniably, and quite viscerally gruesome (I still have phantom pains thinking about it). As far as horror goes, the first half’s guts and gore is more than enough. However, by the second half the style of horror changes completely. Moving away from blood, “Titane” turns psychological, with more focus on a demonic, black ooze-causing pregnancy, and the strange plot change that is “Adrien.”.  

Alexia is a 20-something exotic dancer with a metal plate in her head since a car accident as a girl. Her world implodes when an interaction with a “fan” leads to murder. In no time, she turns into a full-on serial killer with a lust for violence. On the lam, Alexia disguises herself as Adrien, a young boy that went missing years ago and would now be an adult. The ensuing half of the film is a convoluted and extremely creepy dynamic between “Adrien” and his steroid-loaded firefighter father. In the background of all of this is an inferred exploitative relationship with Alexia and her father, the demonic pregnancy, and sex with cars. Do I understand most of it? I won’t pretend to.

The question now is whether “Titane” is any good, and I find that very difficult to answer. Alexia is a very interesting anti-hero, but her motivations beyond the first murder seem flimsy, or at least lacking context. You certainly won’t find the overt kind of direct backstory as in “Promising Young Woman” here. The violence almost seemed like it was written before director and writer Julia Ducournau knew where the film was going, and yet at the same time only seemed to exist for the sake of facilitating the transition into the more complex second act. 

Some of the character relationships are captivating, but they don’t always make a ton of sense. In fact, even though I tried to let myself go and simply experience the film without overanalyzing, I felt more untethered from the story than absorbed by it. And still, questions that lead to non-answers and even less directional questions like “What does the metal plate in Alexia’s head have to do with anything?,” “What is she killing all these people?,” and “What’s up with the cars?” are unsatisfying, and frankly aren’t supplied with enough fodder to make them worth investing in after the credits roll. 

I anticipated really liking “Titane” — I wanted to — but I just couldn’t. At least it was weird, but this weirdness felt directionally thin.

Title: “Titane”

Star Rating: 3/5

[Available at time of writing to see in theatres]