The French horror film “breaks the boundaries of the genre”


Spoiler alert: Contains plot details of the new French horror film “Titane” (now in theaters).

“Titanium” is the cutest movie you’ll see this year about a woman having sex in a car.

The daring body horror flick (now in theaters) centers around an erotic dancer named Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), who makes money performing at auto shows and murders people with a hair needle. while she’s not on the clock. After one of these incidents, she returns to work to clean up when a flame painted sports car beckons. She gets inside and starts fornicating with the bouncy hot rod. A few days later, she is lactating motor oil and her belly begins to swell.

As shocking as it may sound, “this is not a comedic moment,” says French filmmaker Julia Ducournau (“Raw”). “It’s playing on that weird mix of tenderness and sexuality and the strangeness that goes with it, but it’s also played completely straight. That’s why I use the choir (the music of the stage): I wanted to add something sacred to something that might seem secular. ”

Alexia’s supercharged pregnancy is just the starting point for “Titane”, which in July won the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or. Ducournau is only the second woman to win the prestigious award in the festival’s 74-year history, after “The Piano” by Jane Campion in 1993.

The film has 86% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it “insane”, “extremely original” and “really, really, really crazy”. But what makes “Titanium” transcend the pure festival of shocks, it is the healthy relationship between parents and children which is at the heart of it.

After a particularly savage killing, Alexia becomes a wanted woman and is forced to disguise herself to escape arrest. She shaves her hair, breaks her nose, buys a sweatshirt and assumes the identity of Adrien, a boy who died a decade earlier. She goes to the police and claims to be long lost Adrien, whose father, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), still mourns his disappearance.

Through Alexia's father figure, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), writer / director Julia Ducournau wanted to explore

Vincent, an aging fire captain, is delighted that his “son” is back and welcomes the curious, mostly mute young man. Through spaghetti dinners and dance parties at Vincent’s fire station, Alexia gradually warms up to the old man, who becomes the caring father figure she never had growing up.

“I absolutely wanted to make a film about love,” says Ducournau. “I don’t like to put words to that feeling, so I knew from the start that my film would be very few words. For me, it’s not about a father-daughter at all: it’s a mixture of father-daughter, father-son, lovers, companions in misery “, and the loners meeting again. “I wanted to portray love as it could be.”

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In addition to exploring grief and trauma, “Titanium” is also a deeply queer story. As her pregnancy becomes more and more debilitating and noticeable, Alexia painfully binds her breasts and stomach in order to “pass” for a man. Men at the barracks question her identity, insisting to Vincent that she is not really his son. At one point, Vincent finds her crouching in a closet, wearing a sundress paired with loose sports shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt.

“Titanium” received mixed reactions of some people in trans and non-binary communities. Jude Dry of Indiewire wrote it “uses the iconography of the transition to blind service of his false-feminist fable.”

“The first (goal) was to try and debunk all gender stereotypes throughout the film,” says Ducournau, who saw both male and female actors identify with each other when casting Alexia’s role. / Adrien. “I really felt free to explore how fluid an identity can be beyond gender. At first, Vincent tries to match it with his own fantasy of a son. She chooses to become that son, but in the end What makes her complete is that she’s Alexia and Adrien at the same time, and neither at the same time. You have all this journey to break the boundaries of the genre. ”

"Titanium" performed at the Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals before opening in theaters earlier this month.

Rousselle is a model making her acting debut in “Titane”. Ducournau was keen to present an unfamiliar face so that the audience did not “project the genre that he had seen in other films of this person before. Then they can really walk through the identity and accept every step of (Alexia and Adrien). And I needed someone. with a very androgynous look, for obvious reasons. ”

The complexity of the genre binaries is often reflected in the film’s striking soundtrack. During one of the first scenes, Alexia (as Adrien) joins Vincent in dancing to the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” after dinner, which quickly turns into a violent test of machismo as they dance. struggle on the floor.

“With ‘She’s not there’, it’s playing both for Vincent’s denial of the true identity of the person in front of him,” says Ducournau. “She’s not here, which means Alexia isn’t here. For Vincent, it’s Adrien. It must be Adrien. And for her, it’s a step forward in the way she leaves Alexia behind her and takes one more step in Adrien’s life. ”

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