This is the shock of this 74th Cannes Film Festival. After Grave, her first film screened at the Critics’ Week in 2016, Julia Ducournau presents this year Titanium, in official selection. The story of Alexia, shattered by a car accident when she was a child, an iron plate in her head, a (fatal) spike in her hair, and skin that heats up on contact with sheet metal, engines rumbling and gasoline vapors. Without forgetting a great void inside, which only love, whether it takes the form of a strange entity or a bodybuilder Vincent Lindon, can fill.
When it was screened on July 13 at the Palais des Festivals, some in the room were expected to leave their seats in front of the scenes of violence or sex (both in and with cars), at the like a Crash by David Cronenberg, presented in the same venues 25 years earlier. But it is rather the astonishment of a public fascinated by the extreme power of the images, and laughing (to compensate?) In front of the most gory sequences, that we have observed. An atmosphere that did not escape Julia Ducournau, met the next day: “My eyes were scanning the images but I was only ears, while also being in something very skinny: I felt in the room a great attention to the screen, as well as a tension that was extremely centered, direct. That pleased me.”
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Tension: the key element in Julia Ducournau’s films, which you never know how far the heroines, cannibals or serial killers, will go. We speak of his feature films as “shock films”. She corrects: “I am looking for a reaction rather than a provocation. And above all, I’m looking for a look. ” A look that she directs on flesh which transforms and characters which tame them. As if it was absolutely necessary to metamorphose to finally accept yourself, inTitanium, Alexia’s body mutates, cracks, evolves. Just like that of Vincent Lindon, firefighter on steroids who would have made a temple of his despite his ruin. “I don’t think you have to actively transform your body to love it,” says Julia Ducournau. But I think we definitely have to accept that he is transforming. And even that you have to love it precisely because it is transformed. ”
A psychopath and a firefighter
This path, it is with two perfect actors that Julia Ducournau has taken it. Vincent Lindon, whose character she describes as a “colossus with feet of clay”, leader of a pack devastated by the loss of a missing child: “It is someone who becomes almost” transhuman “to escape the humanity and death, ”explains the director. “Vincent is someone who makes extremes coincide in a constant way: one can find in him a form of darkness, close to the anguishes of childhood, as well as a roundness that tenderly touches me a lot. I wanted to show it as I see it: fragile and solid at the same time. “
At his side, Agathe Rousselle, in which it is the first role, slipped into the bruised skin of the cold-blooded killer: “At the beginning, Alexia is a psychopath, it is a character who is not likeable. , not very human, a little hybrid with his piece of metal in his head, analyzes the actress. But she’s a character that you want to love when little by little she finds emotion again. The power of this girl is that she knows how to reinvent herself. He’s also a very lonely person, who doesn’t belong anywhere: something I can find myself in. ”
Also a photographer and model, the 32-year-old Frenchwoman espoused the questions that Titanium raises on the genre, and its fluctuations: “It has always happened that I am taken for a boy. I experienced it very badly when I was younger, until my twenties: I shaved my head, and I didn’t care. It was also the time when my feminism was awakened. I identify as a woman, but it is very liberating to get out of the gaze of others, and especially that of men. ”
6 hours of makeup
Lascivious choreography in prostheses sometimes requiring up to 6 hours of makeup, through superbly filmed nude scenes, the actress threw herself (almost) lost in the role. : “In my wildest dreams, I wanted a role like that, very physical. Seeing my body transform, I thought I was going to live it well: I have already shaved my head, or bleached my eyebrows. I just had a little dark moment when we were shooting the scenes where I wore a maximum of prostheses, even though I was extremely well surrounded, pampered. I started very early in the morning, half asleep, while I was getting my makeup done. I woke up, it wasn’t my face anymore, until late at night. I experienced a kind of dissociation which shocked me a bit, I did not expect it. But it didn’t last. ”
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As for the scenes which expose her the most, Agathe Rousselle lent herself to it like a performance, and in complete safety: “From the beginning of the film, Julia made me a promise that she kept: that we would run as a small team when we wanted, and everything would be extremely protected. For the more difficult sequences, like the sex scene in the car, which I dreaded, I thought I was going to do a little show. It’s play, in the most fun sense of the word. ”
A feminine look?
The body, love, sex and motherhood filmed by a woman, who at no time reduces her character to an object: on the Croisette, we could hear, the day after the screening of Titanium, how much Julia Ducournau’s work reflected the “female gaze”, that famous “female gaze” too rare in cinema.
A notion in which the director does not recognize herself: “I work on the question of gender in my films, but that of mine has no interest. I’m not making a film from a woman’s point of view. I’m making a film from Julia Ducournau’s point of view. And what is it, Julia Ducournau? Everyone can have their answer. Me, I know that I will spend my life looking for it. ” And us, looking at her.
Titanium, by Julia Ducournau, indoors.
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