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The director of “Titane” on the themes of the film’s genre and psychopathic violence

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Shamelessly violent and full of big ideas, this year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, “Titane”, directed by Julia Ducournau, has managed to become one of the most notable films of the year. On Tuesday, the film was selected as France’s official Oscar submission, beating Venice Golden Lion winner “Happening” and “The Stronghold” in a competitive race.

Only the second woman to win Cannes’ highest honor, Ducournau taps into the public’s taste for blood – something her debut film, “Raw,” had in abundance – while subverting fashions. arthouse horror. And it is rewarded at the box office, setting recent records for French-language films and Palme d’Or winners.

French director and screenwriter Julia Ducournau.Philippe Quaisse / Pasco

In “Titanium”, Ducournau’s critical objective focuses on the exploitations of gender and homosexuality. To that end, there is an abundance of bodily horror that shoots the physical pain of pregnancy and abortion, bonding and hormone injections. Ducournau, in his usual style, draws the line between fantasy and reality with these distorted images, which makes them all the more squeaky.

But it’s not just the bodily horror – pregnancy breasts soaked in motor oil, skin tearing metal, cranial fluid escaping from a punctured ear – that makes viewers squirm on their feet. seats. The main character, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), is a violent and violent psychopath who also causes some shock. She views human life with the same apathy as the genre, which in most horror movies would force her to be the villain.

“Right off the bat, I absolutely didn’t want to justify my character’s violence and I didn’t want to psychologize that she was a psychopath,” Ducournau told NBC News.

“When women kill in films, it is very often linked to a cause that can be explained. There is a rationale. Men can be inherently violent for no reason, but for women it is totally unacceptable, ”she said.

With Alexia, someone who can kill “without emotion, without justification”, Ducournau said she wanted to break with the social construction that women are designated victims who cannot or will not retaliate.

With thrilling music, minimal dialogue, and plenty of shock value, the film creates a world where people can challenge categorization and violence for no reason always lurks in the shadows.

‘To recover[ing] the story of the patriarchy ‘

The film opens with a violent car accident involving a young Alexia and her father, who seethes with disdain at the image of her daughter in the rearview mirror moments before her head nearly smashes the window. He comes out unscathed, as she ends up with a titanium plate in her head and a dangerous attraction for motor vehicles.

In dizzying order, the film begins to unfold, layering metaphors over striking visuals. Adult Alexia, sporting a sci-fi head scar, weaves through a car display filled with writhing women and sordid men to the film’s alluring opening score. Ducournau’s skill with choreographed chaos is on display as Alexia performs a stone face Dance of the seven veils at the top of a hood decorated with flames, the two women masterfully attract their audience. But beware, buyer: Alexia’s enthusiasm for cars is matched only by her indifference to people.

The murder begins when a menacing fan who stalks Alexia off the show is quickly taken out with a hairpin, reminiscent of the ice pick scene in “Basic Instinct.” But things really start to take a turn for the worse when, afterward, Alexia has what can only be described as a sexual encounter with one of the cars and gets pregnant.

A photo of “Titanium”.Carole Bethuel / NEON

This is the scene we talk about the most in the film and the one that has been read as the strangest. Elsewhere in the film, gender and sexuality are expressed in more conventional terms, even when subverted. But here, heteronormative and non-heteronormative labels don’t really apply.

It’s also another example of Ducournau’s peculiar form of subversion: taking a symbol and stretching it to his most perverse and fantastical ends.

“This very active, very consuming relationship with the car makes him reappropriate the narrative on patriarchy and makes his own desire prevail over a symbol of masculinity,” said Ducournau.

The resulting corrosive resident of her belly seems to trigger something animal, rather than maternal, and halfway through the film, Alexia is a regular at Jack the Ripper. As the bodies accumulate, she is forced to flee and forms a plan to hide her identity and pose as a missing person, Adrien, whose poster she sees. next to her wanted one.

Despite the obvious prank, the missing boy’s father, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), warmly welcomes the return of the prodigal son, and Alexia finds refuge under the name Alexia-Adrien.

“A character who evolves beyond the genre”

The story of Alexia-Adrien is perhaps Ducournau’s most daring move in an already ambitious film. At different times, it seems provocative, callous, and just plain laughable.

In a gruesome but dark and comedic scene, Alexia performs a homemade bathroom sink-style facial reconstruction, the results of which look nothing like Adrien in the missing poster. This lack of resemblance becomes the longest running joke in the film, setting up a series of punchlines at the fire station where Vincent is the much loved and feared captain.

The film has also been criticized for using the trans tropes of hormone binding and injection for its own purposes. As the father and son settle into the masquerade, they perform rituals that help maintain the illusion: Alexia-Adrien binds to hide an increasingly Madonna-esque body tearing at the seams, and Vincent, a alpha as he ages, injects himself with steroids which pulsate through engorged veins.

A photo of “Titanium”.NEON

Ducournau said that the presentation of the genre in the film was not part of an agenda but rather of the realization that she had long ago of her own identity :, “she said. Alexia is an extreme incarnation. of this philosophy, having “no attachment to any genre”, as Ducournau described it.

“While trying to challenge, demystify and subvert gender stereotypes, I have also tried to portray a world where there are more options, and we actually don’t need to evolve into it. two genres, which are incredibly limiting, ”said Ducournau. “Having a character who evolves beyond the genre was completely normal. “

Ducournau said this development was also key to the film’s exploration of unconditional love, which she described as “a love that can see representations of the past and all forms of determinism.” Although Vincent clings to the idea that Alexia-Adrien is truly his missing child, the couple’s bond grows stronger as the veil continually slips and eventually falls.

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