Before heading to the theater I checked the movie’s length on letterboxd, stopping to chuckle at their plot description about a fireman reuniting with his son, obviously a database glitch since everyone knows Titane is about a woman having sex with cars. But it’s both! Agathe Rousselle, obsessed with metal and fire, is hiding from the cops after a serial-murder spree, having killed at least five hot young people plus her parents, and decides to masquerade as the missing boy on a poster. Now her adoptive dad wants to bond with her, while she’s trying to hide the evidence that she’s been knocked up by a hot rod.
Movies do love to open with car crashes – good crash here, though I liked the Empty Man kid’s coin-on-teeth routine more than Young Agathe’s vroom sounds. After Annette and It Still Lives, this is my third mutant baby (titanium-spined cyborg) in a couple months, and after Videodrome and the Tsukamotos this has become a flesh-machine-themed week. Raw star Garance Marillier plays a friend/victim, and is again named Justine. In Raw, Justine’s sister was Alexia and her roommate was Adrien, and in Titane those are the two names Agathe goes by – something’s going on here. Alexia’s real dad is Bertrand Bonello, and in her new life she’s got Claire Denis regular Vincent Lindon as a dad and Dardenne regular Myriem Akeddiou for a mom.
The switch from car-humping icepick murderer to mute sullen teen firefighter is abrupt, but it works in the moment. Scott Tobias in The Reveal:
Its heroine’s body is stretched and mutated in Cronenberg fashion, and as she recedes ever more dramatically from social acceptability, Titane stirs intense alienation and loneliness. But a disarming sweetness sneaks its way into the film, too, as the conventional boundaries of gender and family are scrubbed away and a relationship defines its own terms.