Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Titane.Titane is one of our most self-realized, confident films that also feels like 18 films smushed together. Writer/director Julia Ducournau juggles elements of psychosexual thriller, ultraviolent serial killer horror, cyberpunk body horror, gender-bending erotic drama, and earnest family drama, all with some of the wildest, most inventive filmmaking of the past year. It also — and I cannot stress this enough — is about a woman who fucks a car and gives birth to a car baby.
How on earth do you recommend something similar to that? I’ve tried my best here by compartmentalizing the various components of the one-of-a-kind Titane, offering films that give you various different tastes that just might add up to a similar dish. Here are seven movies to watch after Titane. Good luck!
Natasha Lyonne is an aimless partier existing in a wild, ex-military community of aimless hard-partiers. But when she wakes up one day discovering eerily similar symptoms to pregnancy, despite no knowledge of having sex in a year, a gnarled, surreal conspiracy rears its ugly head, contorting and corrupting Lyonne’s body in all kinds of visceral and psychological ways. With experimental drugs, governmental procedures, and patriarchal manipulations rife at every corner of Antibirth, the film feels like an edible to Titane‘s hit of oxy; it might not start with the most intense of highs, but once it hits you, it never stops hitting you. Its ending “birthing sequence” is about the wildest birthing sequence you’ll see since, well, Titane.
1996’s Crash is not an anodyne, problematic how-to on solving racism. It is, instead, a deeply unsettling psychosexual drama about a group of souls who discover and cultivate their car crash fetish. For these folks, including newcomer James Spader, the ideas of humans becoming injured in an automobile accident, the melding of flesh and metal, the fusion of made industrialization and organic nature, is the only gratification worth pursuing. As you might’ve guessed, this Crash comes from psychosexual body horror maestro David Cronenberg, whose obsessions and influences echo in every moment of Titane (though Cronenberg, aesthetically, tends to make quieter, more cerebral-feeling pictures than Ducournau).
I Stand Alone
Fellow provocateur Gaspar Noé‘s later films like Enter the Void or Climax may be more in line with Titane‘s kinetic, pulverizing aesthetics, especially its rip-roaring, long-takes-and-bright-colors-and-sudden-bursts-of-violence first half. But for a similarly deep, taboo, and disquieting character study of a broken father figure and his sad, perverse, self-loathing obsessions — and whether or not a child will save him or doom him — Noé’s first feature I Stand Alone stands alone. This is dark, grimy stuff; so much so that Noé adds an onscreen timer countdown to give his audience a chance to leave the theater before its terrible conclusion. Philippe Nahon plays the unnamed butcher, a man on the edge of crisis at every conceivable turn, a walking, hulking symbol of distorted masculinity. His contemplations of how to improve his life seem to be met with nothing but despair and violence, save for his beloved daughter (Blandine Lenoir). But even this paternal love is swayed and corrupted by the film’s relentless nihilism, almost making the bizarre father/child relationship in Titane seem heartwarming by comparison.
An out-and-out sprint through agonizing anxiety and powerful catharsis (though not always via the healthiest means), Madeline’s Madeline is a transporting film from Josephine Decker, a work that feels otherwordly while tapping into some kind of primal feeling we all possess. In thrillingly, kinetically-composed sequences of handheld photography and aggressive editing, the film follows Madeline (Helena Howard in a kindred energetic space to Titane‘s Agathe Rousselle) as she tries desperately to reckon with her personal traumas via an experimental theater troupe manned by a sometimes mentoring, sometimes manipulating Molly Parker. Boundaries blur, tempers flare, and emotions reach peak after peak as the film flies faster and faster, managing to convey episodes of psychologically fueled suspense alongside gripping depictions of human drama.
Natural Born Killers
Alexia (Rousselle) is a freaking serial killer. And in the first chunk of the picture, Ducournau presents her strikes of violence with formal experimentation, exaggeration, and even glee. If this energy is what grabbed you the most about Titane, strap yourself into Natural Born Killers. Using a litany of film and video formats, lighting and shooting every shot in a seemingly disparate style, and drenching everything with grotesqueries, Oliver Stone cultivates quite an intoxicating, lurid vibe, shooting Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis through a fiendishly satirical rendition of Hell. This couple, a kind of “early MTV Bonnie & Clyde,” rampages across the country killing those in their wake, while media pundits like Robert Downey Jr. simultaneously criticize and glorify their actions. Stone’s work here is relentless and restless, an avant-garde phantasmagoria of images and sounds and provocations.
Alexia likes to have sex with cars. Hunter (Haley Bennett), the lead character of Carlo Mirabella-Davis‘ Swallow, likes to swallow inedible objects. And at the end of the day, who are we to judge either?
Swallow uses this odd, disturbing trait as means to explore themes of gender identity, oppression, and self-perception versus projected perception. It also, like Titane, centers on an unorthodox pregnancy that might become corrupted by its central character’s proclivities, leading to a deep, dark psychological-cum-visceral examination of the soul. And at its core, a central, seemingly outlandish question keeps radiating for the audience: Why won’t people just let her swallow what she wants to? Why do we keep insisting on owning and controlling women’s bodies?
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a fucking nightmare. In garish, bleary, stark black and white, director Shinya Tsukamoto renders unto us about as pure an unlocking of one’s untethered subconscious as is imaginable, a cyberpunk-influenced horror show of sweat and flesh and sex and metal, metal, metal. Titane featured a main character whose fetishes resulted in a kind of cybernetic, machine-based corruption of the human form as a kind of supporting detail. In Tetsuo, it’s the main event; the search for turning one’s body, other people’s bodies, our entire world into an unstable, unholy amalgamation of technology and skin becoming the guided-missile of narrative, collateral explosions and all. It’s only 67 minutes long, but you will never, ever forget it.
KEEP READING: Fantastic Fest 2021 First Wave Includes Palme D’Or Winner ‘Titane’ and A24’s ‘Lamb’
The sets were revealed at Walmart’s Collector Con panel at this year’s New York Comic Con.
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