To say that I don’t understand much of modern art would be an understatement, but even the most educated of art critics are divided about Julia Ducournau’s Titane, a French film about a woman who has sex with and becomes impregnated by... a car. And it just won the Palme d’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize.
The film follows a young woman who survives a car crash as a child, which completely alters her relationship to cars into adulthood. When she walks out of the hospital after undergoing brain surgery, she ignores her family and walks up to their car, which she hugs and kisses instead. The protagonist, Alexia, is a dancer in a sleazy underground car scene.
And yes, she is pregnant with a car. She’s even lactating black oil. That’s also happening.
I’ll just let you watch the trailer:
There’s a lot going on here. There’s a lot of blood. There’s a scene where Alexia adopts a new male gender that sees her pass herself off as a boy who disappeared a decade later. One reviewer, Nicholas Barber at the BBC, wasn’t quite sure what to make of it:
I’m not sure what the message of Titane might be, or why Ducournau has sewn together a Frankenstein’s monster from so many disparate ideas, or whether Alexia’s feverish journey relates to any recognisable, non-psychopathic emotions except a parent’s all-consuming yearning to be reunited with a lost child (the theme of another surreal film that premiered at Cannes this year, Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Lamb). It’s definitely less focused than Raw, but I admired the way Titane kept me guessing and gasping, and the way it revealed glimmers of compassion beneath its spiky, bodily fluid-dripping surface. Whatever you think of it, no one is going to roll their eyes and grumble, “Huh – not another genre mash-up about a homicidal lesbian cyborg fostering a quasi-incestuous relationship with the delusional father of the man she is pretending to be.” Ducournau has driven to the boundaries of conventional cinema – and then put her foot down.
He went on to give it four stars.
All things considered, I can’t help but find myself... both horrified and intrigued. If you need a shocker of a film to stun all your friends at your next movie night, Titane might just do the trick. Especially if you don’t want to hang out with those friends again.