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Inside ‘Titane,’ the Wildest and Sexiest Movie of the Year

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Drawn to the flaws of the flesh, the blemishes that spur insecurities but reassure our commonality, French director Julia Ducournau has introduced her own elaborate vocabulary to the blood-tinged language of body horror. Ruptured skin and the ensuing scar tissue communicate messages from the inner, unseen wounds of her characters.

“I dig into imperfections because that is where humanity resides. This is where we are equal,” Ducournau tells The Daily Beast from New York City. “What I find incredibly endearing is that we spend our whole lives trying to prove that we are perfect, that we are so self-assured and ready to handle anything. In my film I try to talk about what we don’t talk about, and show what we don’t usually show.”

Her 2016 feature debut Raw, where a veterinary student dabbles in cannibalism, sparked mythical tales of people fainting and vomiting at the film’s Toronto International Film Festival screening. Amid the controversy, the filmmaker’s reputation as an artist with a taste for stylish provocation was cemented.

Now with her sophomore cinematic incision Titane, for which she became only the second woman to win the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Ducournau maintains her fascination for corporeal defects and shocking imagery, but imbues it with more philosophical panache. Grotesquely dazzling, her latest is a tale of usurped identity, an unwanted pregnancy, sentient machines, and parental torment enveloped in the constant subversion of gender and genre conventions.

Julia Ducournau poses with the Palme d'Or for Titane during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 17, 2021, in Cannes, France.

Convinced that our visceral understanding of physical pain is the most honest entry point to empathy for others, even those with questionable morality, the director aims for the viewer to relate to the bodily experience of the protagonist of Titane—Alexia, a car show model turned merciless murderer—without condoning her vicious acts.

“I’m going to give you a stupid example. If you see someone who’s being stabbed in the hand, you personally will not have been stabbed in the hand, probably ever, but watching that you will have an immediate reaction of empathy in your body, like it hurts you as well. You know this thing we do, going like ugh, because we know it hurts and yet you’ve never experienced it,” she explains. “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do in my work. It’s a way for me to empathize with characters that are not your typically likable characters.”

Searching for someone to embody the part of Alexia/Adrien (the character’s other iteration), Ducournau envisioned an androgynous look and........

© The Daily Beast

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