Shockingly audacious ‘Titane’ will test your limits

This is easily one of the most bonkers movies of the year

Brad Keefe

First off, if you are feeling very, very, very adventurous, I recommend you go see “Titane” without knowing anything about it. Emphasis on “very.”

For the rest of you, I’ll share the basic premise of the movie: A female serial killer has sex with a car and gets pregnant.

And I’ll also say that description barely scratches the surface and hardly even classifies as a spoiler. This one is a ride, easily one of the most bonkers movies of the year.

But it’s also not some B-movie exploitation flick. The French-language film won the Palme d’Or this year at Cannes, the festival’s highest honor. That said, I wouldn’t expect it on the Oscar shortlist.

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Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a popular dancer at a club that functions as something of a cross between a strip club and an auto show. Think Whitesnake video.

She’s a celebrity at the club. Fans approach her for autographs. One overzealous fan follows her to the parking lot hoping for an autograph and to perhaps profess his love. This is not a good idea under any circumstances, but it’s a particularly bad idea here. And then she has sex with a car in a scene that feels like a bizarre outtake of “Maximum Overdrive” as directed by David Lynch.

My readers know I’m overly cautious about spoilers, so I’ll just add that this is basically the first 10 minutes of the film, and it only gets weirder from there.

“Titane” has been high on my radar since Cannes, as it’s the second feature from writer-director Julia Ducournau. Her first film was “Raw,” a horror film about a militant vegetarian who accidentally consumes raw meat and unlocks a hidden hunger. It was equal parts shocking and beautiful, an allegory about desire and repression.

“Titane” shows Ducournau is masterful at creating dichotomy, a film that’s at times grotesque and at other times sweetly tender. I realize not everyone is into that kind of emotional and visceral whiplash, but the sheer audacity of the movie is something to behold.

The same can be said of Rousselle’s stunning dedication to the lead role, both in its extreme moments and the small ones. The film’s back half introduces another great performance by French actor Vincent Lindon in a role that’s actually central but I won’t get into here.

“Titane” is also a visually lush, full sensory experience, though it’s hard to imagine that it’s technical merit would get you over the sheer WTF nature of the whole thing.

But that’s also what makes Ducournau a visionary director to watch. “Titane” has scenes that will likely be talked about for years, but it also touches on larger themes of gender, family and more.

Perhaps most impressive is just how confidently Ducournau directs. She makes absolutely wild narrative choices in a way that makes it seem like they couldn’t have been anything else. She somehow makes it make sense.

The “not for everyone” tag is a huge understatement, as even the most adventurous will have mixed reactions, but I’m always here for something that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

That’s definitely “Titane.”


Now playing in theaters

4 stars out of 5