Those who are around my age might remember stories about Jay Leno’s passion for cars. The king of late-night comedy was known to have a penchant for Porsche. A love for Lamborghini. A craving for Chrysler. I remember watching a program that visited his lavish residence, and he got to show off a fraction of his vehicle collection. According to an article I found online, as of December 2021, the comedian owns 180 cars and 160 motorbikes, giving his garage a value of close to $100 million.
I thought a human being could not be found that loves cars more than Leno. But after watching Titane from writer-director Julia Ducournau and released by Neon, I think there is definitely a fictional contender to the crown.
Titane is the story of Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), who was in a car wreck at a young age, leaving her with titanium plates in her head. She develops resentment for her parents, leading to her estrangement as she reaches adulthood. Becoming a dancer for motor shows, she puts her fabulous figure to work. However, she harbors a deep desire for vehicles. One that leads her to commit atrocities against friends and strangers alike.
Body horror seems to be a calling card for Julia Ducournau. Her first taste of success came in 2016 with Raw, a film about a vegan turning into a cannibal. Titane seems to be a natural progression for her, as it combines some fantastical ideas with a touch of realism. Titane takes an obsession to a dark level, and much like Raw, leads to an ending that feels unreal and real, all at the same time.
Whenever the genre of body horror is brought up, many go to gratuitously violent films, such as Saw and The Human Centipede. Many people associate the genre with “torture porn,” but that seems unfair to lump all body horror films into that disparaging category. While Saw and The Human Centipede do push the limits and probably are, indeed, porn to some, other films, such as The Thing, Upgrade, Swallow and even Tusk are considered to be body horror. Basically, if the human body is contorted or distorted in a painful way, it fits.
Ducouranau does not enter the realm of torture porn. Titane borders on a line that is between Teeth (2007) and Slither (2006). Alexia will do anything to keep her secrets quiet, even though one of them threatens to kill her. Her body may be tearing apart, but she desires nothing but to remain relatively unknown. The pain she feels is palatable.
While I cannot imagine the pain of being ripped apart physically and mentally, I kinda get the idea from seeing the torment on Alexia’s face and body. Agathe Rousselle portrayed Alexia perfectly, in all respects.
I see a great future for Ducouranau in the horror genre. Between Raw and Titane, it feels like the writer-director may have an anthology of films on her hands. Titane gets four out of five stars. The film is a little long-winded, but delivers a great, horrific story that will have you cringing in your seat through most of its runtime.