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Carole Bethuel/Neon

MOVIE REVIEW
Titane (2021)

If you are going to see “Titane” – which, as a bona fide patron of the arts, you should; it’s won Palme d’or and all – you’d be best advised to go in cold. Engaging with it here on any beyond-the-bare-bones level – screenplay, direction, acting, special effects et al. – simply necessitates spoiling. Basically, it’s a series of bonkers body-horror set pieces built strictly on shock value, with writer-director Julia Ducournau overreaching to connect the far-fetched dots.

Still with us? The film begins with 7-year-old Alexia (Adèle Guigue) being as annoying as hell in the rear seat of a car, humming engine noises while kicking the back of the driver’s seat. A collision predictably ensues, and she ends up getting a titanium plate implanted in her head. She grows up (now played by Agathe Rousselle) and becomes an exotic dancer working at a club that resembles a souped-up International Auto Show. After getting literally entangled with a colleague (Olivia Venner) in the shower, she is followed to her car by a stalker (Thibault Cathalifaud) – whom she promptly kills. Self-defense, one supposes.

She returns to the club to shower, during which she’s startled by noises. As she stands naked and dripping wet, a car flashes its headlights as a come-hither. She hops into the front, straps her arms with the seatbelts and proceeds to mate – with the car. Later she and girlfriend Justine (Garance Marillier, star of Ms. Ducournau’s “Raw”) inexplicably wind up at a party/orgy, where Alexia goes on a killing spree. To evade the police, she binds her chest and her now visibly pregnant belly and assumes the identity of Adrien, the long-lost son of fire captain Vincent (Vincent Lindon).

What is the significance of Alexia’s sexual orientation? Did the implant turn her into a serial killer? Why is she lactating motor oil? Why won’t Vincent call her bluff when nearly everyone else sees right through her charade? Why does Vincent routinely inject his posterior? None of these details are of consequence, apparently. Yet Ms. Ducournau keeps asking viewers to make leap of faith on top of leap of faith.

We won’t reveal exactly who or what’s her baby, but consider that when she goes into labor, her belly lacerates to reveal a mass of metal underneath. And does it make sense that all this extra hardware would be poking through her skin postpartum? Then again, how does she get impregnated by the car in the first place? “Titane” cannot withstand scrutiny because, from the screenplay’s internal logic down to the production design, Ms. Ducournau hasn’t thought it all the way – or perhaps even a decent part of the way – through. It’s fascinating to see the mental gymnastics critics are performing to justify its Palme d’or status, when the film is blatantly antiwomen, antigay and antitrans without justification or apology.

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