Rise of hot liquid. Adrenaline rush. Rise of milk. With Titane, Julia Ducournau signs a genre and transgender film in three tableaux, which her mutant warrior character, Alexia/Adrien (Agathe Rousselle), crosses as one flees the flames of the fire, to save his skin, from the less what remains of a shattered life since childhood.
Palme d’or at Cannes in 2021, this second feature film confirms the immense talent of the director, born in 1983, after the shock aroused by her first “feature” Grave, about a medical student (Garance Marillier) tempted by anthropophagy. Titane works again on the question of the flesh, from another, more philosophical perspective, connected to the mutations of the body and to filiation.
After a violent car accident, Alexia survives thanks to a prosthesis embedded above the ear, containing titanium – a metal resistant to high temperatures. We discover this androgynous beauty in a motor show with a Lynchian atmosphere, where sexual fantasy is in full swing. So here is a bonnet carefully washed by a pair of sparkling breasts and, a few sedans further on, Agathe in fishnet declaring her love for a Buick, the camera as close as possible to her loins.
Julia Decournau pushes the clichés to the extreme – we think of “well-built” girls – to deflate them immediately. There are not on one side the victims, on the other the profiteers. Alexia liquidates a “customer” who gets a little too close. “Love is a dog from hell” is tattooed on his chest.
Her thing is the car. Fasten your seat belts, in Titanium, these unglamorous accessories regain sex appeal. The first murder triggers new ones, joyful and wild killings as in the final bouquet of Parasite (2019), by Bong Joon-ho. Wanted by the police, Alexia runs away and transforms into a boy, reshaping her face like a sculptor would with a chisel… Seeing him, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), a firefighter by profession, thinks he has found his missing son there. is ten years old – and Alexia becomes Adrien.
After eroticism, violence, comes the time of taming between two characters. In the “virilistic” atmosphere of the barracks, everyone plays their performance and keeps their share of lies: the young firefighters overplay the “guys”, Adrien bandages his breasts, Vincent, at the top of the inflatable, his body flushed, filmed as an ox, prefers not to know where this fanatic comes from who dances lasciviously on the roof of his truck – as long as he feels a little filial love, everything suits him.
Julia Ducournau takes her actors to great lengths – Lindon giving herself bare ass shots; the complexion of Adrien/Alexia filmed like a devastated landscape, by dint of restraints, irritations. Rarely has a camera scrutinized the bodies so closely.