REVIEW: Quality is clear in ‘Titane’ but enjoyment can be modest

“Titane” is the French term for “titanium,” one of the strongest metals on Earth.

With that in consideration, the title “Titane” makes sense, as metal and strength are often tied to masculinity, which plays a major role in this feature.

The main character of the movie is Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), a young woman who works as an exotic dancer at a car show. Alexia seems mostly closed off, and has been so since she was a young girl, when a serious car accident resulted in her needing metal plates inserted.

As the first act reveals, though, Alexia has a dark hobby outside of her main dancing, job. This aspect of her life, as well as a sexual encounter she has one night after work, forces her to make a major change in her life, to the point where she has to assume a different identity. However, this action only leads to more complications.

When a person shops for a new car, they may come across a vehicle where they like certain amenities or parts, but not the ride as a whole. That was my takeaway with “Titane.”

There’s a lot to admire in “Titane.” For example, the film boasts exceptional camerawork, noticeable right in the first act with a well crafted tracking shot. There’s such attention to detail, in some cases pushing the limits when it comes to body horror, that it creates a truly intense visual experience.

The same can be said for how writer Julia Ducournau, who also directed, incorporated so much meaning in the subtext in a less than two hour runtime. Identity, acceptance, deception, sexuality and masculinity are all mixed in a very unabashed and thought-provoking way.

How the protagonist is viewed by every character around them has so much depth. Additionally, how the main character interacts better with machinery than other humans offers a fascinating, and frightening perspective to follow.

Courtesy Neon.

There’s definite quality on display in ‘Titane.” Yet despite that fact, this French film didn’t fully work on my end. It’s provocative because of what’s put to screen, yet there always seemed to be a barrier with building an interest with what was happening in the narrative.

Perhaps it’s related to the main character. The movie is saying something through what the character is experiencing, yet having sympathy for the character is nearly impossible and connecting with her in any way as the film goes on becomes difficult as her personality is so muted.

Part of the latter is understandable, considering what was taking place in the movie. However, the point stands that it was simply tough to feel much when it came to the protagonist.

That’s not to say the performance with the character was poor. Rousselle, who makes her feature film debut after two short movie appearances, is great in portraying a brutal, fierce and menacing character. Even her facial expression had power.

Undoubtedly giving the best performance in the movie, though, is Vincent Lindon. His character enters the movie in the second act and he has an immensely heavy backstory.

The trauma his character has gone through is palpable and his ambition to make an important part of his life work is convincing thanks to Lindon’s acting.

This is definitely one of those movies where it’s harder to review because there’s a lot that can be spoiled. I can say, though, that “Titane” was a movie where I liked a lot of things about it, but didn’t love it as a whole. Mileage will definitely vary with this one. 3.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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