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Entry updated 21 December 2023. Tagged: Film.

["Titanium"] French/Belgian film (2021). Kazak Productions / Frakas Productions / Arte France Cinéma. Directed by Julia Ducournau. Written by Jacques Akchoti, Julia Ducournau and Simonetta Greggio. Cast includes Myriem Akheddiou, Bertrand Bonello, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier and Agathe Roussell. 108 minutes. Colour

A near-fatal car crash as a child leaves Alexia (Roussell) with a metal plate – the titanium of the title – implanted in her head. As a young adult she works as an erotic dancer at car shows, revealing a fetishistic attitude to cars which she soon takes to extremes. After murdering a man she agrees to have Sex with inside a car, in an unforgettable scene she then has sex with the car that she had previously danced on (it has mysteriously turned on its own engine). Finding herself pregnant with the car's baby, and after committing further violent murders which leave her on the run, she disguises herself as the long-lost son of fire station chief Vincent (Lindon). Their relationship and Alexia's attempts to hide her pregnancy form the core of the second half of the film, up until the suitably perverse ending.

Julia Ducournau's follow-up to her much-praised debut Grave (2016) is equally confrontational and unflinching, though considerably less focused, perhaps intentionally so. Driven by an utterly fearless performance from Roussell, the film puts a violently Feminist spin on the Cronenbergian body Horror genre, with memorable imagery such as Alexia's body secreting oil instead of blood, and the final human/Machine birth scene. There is no attempt to rationalize the sf elements, but the mise-en-scène is consistent throughout, and the conflation of serial killing, perverse sexuality and techno-horror is a provocative spin on Donna Haraway's ideas of feminist Cyborg stories subverting command and control. Some of France's most reliable character actors add some humanity amid the gore and pyrotechnics. An extreme horror/sf hybrid is not perhaps the kind of film to succeed at prestigious film festivals, but Titane became only the second film by a female director, and probably the first sf film, to win the Palme d'or at Cannes. [CWa]


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