The first release weekend of October was filled with interesting releases but, with all due respect, none of them measure up to Julia Ducournau’s new film. Titane is an absolute masterpiece of cinematic power that challenges audiences’ preconceived notions of societal mores by using strikingly vivid imagery and boldly imaginative, graphic storytelling to push the envelope.
In just reading the description, it doesn’t do the film justice or encompass how deep and densely layered it is. That’s just a testament to Ducournau as a filmmaker rather than some shortcoming on the part of whoever was tasked with trying to boil it all down into one sentence. There’s a reason she won the Palm d’Or and the film earned a standing ovation at Cannes this year.
Be warned: it’s not going to be for everybody. That’s the kind of cinema I live for. The stuff that applies tension to the borders of my comfort zone, pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable and challenges the expansion of your sympathetic spectrum. It’s a film that needs to be experienced so I don’t want to say too much, but it’s truly something brilliant, unique, and special, and it elevates cinema to the height of its greatest powers.
Ducournau’s screenplay is a whirlwind of simultaneous character complexities and dark humor. Even when it appears to be moving in a straight line, it’s branching out in different directions. As it goes along, you begin to feel all the emotional cues from those branches and they don’t fit together neatly or conveniently. That’s the real beauty of her narrative approach. We’ve all experienced the emotions she’s portraying on screen, perhaps to a lesser extent but the concepts aren’t foreign. It’s the associations and the hierarchy of those feelings that are challenged and it’s up to the audience to draw their own conclusions on that. There are no right or wrong answers, but you may be surprised by where your sympathy lands.
Agathe Rouselle is a whirlwind of emotional volatility in the lead; an exposed nerve that feels everything at its most intense and makes you feel it too. The character has a lot of baggage that steers their behaviors but watching Rouselle unpack all of that with ferocity and tenderness is simply mesmerizing. Performances like this don’t come along very often.
Vincent Lindon is incredible in his supporting role as well. His screen presence is commanding right from his introduction and brings a magnetic intensity to every scene. You don’t know whether to love him, hate him, fear him, or feel bad for him and that’s the mark of a great performance lining up with a fantastic character. I would have to think both he and Rouselle are at the top of the heap for best performances of the year.
The music is great too. Guillaume Baurez did an awesome job with clearance and it gave the whole thing a strong Tarantino vibe early on. Jim Williams’ original music picks up on and amplifies all those emotional cues, and all of that makes Ruben Impens’ cinematography jump off the screen with its incredible color and visceral closeups.
The filmmaking is spectacular across the board and I can’t say enough good things about this movie. I thought I was a fanboy before and had waited fours years since Ducournau’s debut feature Raw to see what she was going to do next and holy crap was it worth the wait. The future of cinema is in good hands with her.
Obviously, it’s not going to be for everyone. In fact, in all likelihood, it won’t be for most people and that’s okay. Films like this don’t come along very often. Forget 2021 for a moment, Titane is by far the most intriguing and thought-provoking film I’ve seen in a while.
Recommendation: If you’re a fan of filmmaking and the breadth of artistic avenues it can encompass, and you’re not afraid to be uncomfortable, this is the film for you.
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