Titane ★★

For what it lacks in grace, it exchanges for a grasp at emotional intelligence. Titane tries to define trauma as a vessel of causality—a butterfly effect that sows seeds for more complication with the aggressiveness and delusion one develops. Or rather, it is an affectation of these themes.

It is only faithful to its lopsided premise through strict coherence to its a-b-a-b cause-and-effect trajectory which alternates between internal conflict and resulting outward action. This would only suffice as a way to organize momentum for the film, but Ducournau seems to have no ability to expand her ideas past her cyclical plot structure. A lot of the just criticisms of this film seem to use other words to cite this as the main issue while everything else feels derivative of other works in the genre and of the extremity movement.

The cycle of unflinching abuse brought on by injury and history only comforts itself by reimagining trauma as a savior. I used to live by something similar; a lot of my worst memories were the ones that felt most potent to me. I would try and reframe them as benchmarks of distinct eras in my life as a way of coping. Titane takes this mechanism, literally fucks it and ponders in its beauty. The excuse being that to resort to creature comforts is inevitable, but the filmmaking insists that they instead be glorified. These creations of sinful sacred cows are how children often reflect the worst attributes of their parents.

This film likes to punctuate the ending of scenes with gestures, specifically embraces, that are meant to bring resolution to each cycle. But Ducournau decides to end scene at these exact moments like a breaststroke not given time to glide. They instead seem like presets; the moments that manage register emotion are the brutal ones. Unforgiving cinema is fine and all, but Titane strangely serves as the exact antithesis to Exotica—one of my favorite films—that also deals with the runoff of trauma. The reason the latter feels endlessly more illuminating is how it inverts the structure used here to beautifully withhold information, leaving the mind to tie together the implicit, rudimentary gestures that PTSD causes. While Titane makes its characters' instincts obvious from the first few minutes, Exotica is lead by a stream of constriction and emotional crutching that make people act helplessly inhuman. We are shown the effects first, how they play interpersonally and leaves their causes for last.

Titane falls for the same faults other films of this generation have, lacking in the subtlety that makes Exotica a traumatic procession. It sadly remains half-dedicated in making reactionary filmmaking and succumbing to its harmful temptations.

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