Swampflix’s Top 10 Films of 2021

1. Titane Julia Ducournau’s follow-up to Raw is a greasy, Cronenbergian nightmare we didn’t want to wake up from: a darkly comic body horror about a serial killer who’s impregnated by a Cadillac and finds herself hiding out with an aging firefighter, disguising herself amongst his cartoonishly macho employees.  It’s a nuclear gender meltdown with no clear sense to be made in its burnt-to-the-ground wreckage, finding unlikely refuge in the violence of pure-masc camaraderie & social ritual.  At times overwhelmingly explicit and unflinchingly fixated on its own gory violence, but also a heartwarming tale of unconditional love.

2. Pig Not at all what you’d expect from a Nic Cage revenge thriller about a disgruntled chef’s John Wick-style mission to recover his stolen truffle pig.  An understated execution of a preposterous premise, refusing to behave either as a sober return-to-form showcase for the often-mocked actor or as fodder for his infinite supply of so-bad-its-good YouTube highlight reels.  It’s its own uniquely beautiful, tenderly macho thing, with more to say about the beauty of a thoughtfully prepared meal than the peculiar flavors of Cage’s screen presence.  Its heart is big, genuine, and forgiving, which is why it’s so moving despite its funhouse mirror reflection of the Portland culinary scene.

3. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del MarA delightful throwback to a very specific type of airheaded buddy comedy that rarely gets made anymore (think Romy & Michelle, A Night at the Roxbury, Dude Where’s My Car?, etc.), especially not with this level of grandeur in expensive set pieces and show-stopping musical numbers.  And it’s even rarer to see that comedic spotlight shone on middle-aged women: a demographic who don’t often get to enjoy the spotlight in anything, even goofy comedies.  We’re already hoping for sequels.

4. Saint Maud A horrific illustration of how traditional stories of sainthood & martyrdom would play out through a modern, critical lens.  An intensely strange character study of a woman of newfound, uninformed, fragmented faith: a personal belief system she obsessively devotes herself to, holding others to the strictures of her singular ideology even though no one on Earth could possibly know what’s going on inside her mind.  And what’s in there is fantastical: orgasmic visions of God and the Devil, Heaven and Hell, atheist souls in desperate need of saving, and an attempted act of self-canonization that’s almost too harrowing to look at directly.

5. The Green Knight A gritty, modernized illustration of an Arthurian quest — one that’s willing to critique the myths of yore, but not so much that the magic is lost.  The modern atmospheric horror treatment does wonders for the fantasy genre, apparently; it really sells the tension & dark magic. The moments of onscreen sorcery are dreamlike & metal as fuck, making for an unlikely new Christmas classic.

6. Bo Burnham: Inside As a “comedy special” this pandemic-era video diary can be hit-or-miss joke by joke.  The songs are great, though, and by the time it fully devolves into panicked video art about Internet Age despair it’s undeniably substantial.  It perfectly captures the feeling of reality itself crumbling around us as we remain in isolation, unable to tell what’s real and what’s not in our increasingly fake modern world.

7. The French Dispatch Film nerds often complain about how visually lazy studio comedies are, so here’s a movie packed with Hollywood Celebrities where every scene is overloaded with gorgeous visuals and hilarious jokes.  The anthology format affords Wes Anderson carte blanche to cram even more visual details & gags into the frame than usual, making for a texturally rich text.  If his previous films are beautifully decorated cakes, this one is a full banquet.

8. The Power of the Dog Jane Campion’s unnerving take on the Western genre conveys a masterful command of tone & form.  And even if Westerns aren’t usually your thing, it’s still a relatable story about that one dipshit bully in your family whose sudden death would instantly improve the lives of everyone you know. 

9. Lapsis  A high-concept, low-budget satire about our near-future gig economy dystopia.  It doesn’t aim for the laugh-a-minute absurdism of Sorry to Bother You, but it’s maybe even more successful in pinpointing exactly how dispiriting it feels to live & work right now.  It’s also incredibly smart in identifying what kind of radical labor movements we need to build to topple the power imbalances workers suffer under, offering a solution instead of just dwelling on the problem.

10. Mandibles  Quentin Dupieux’s absurdist comedy about bumbling criminals who adopt & corrupt a gigantic housefly so it can join them in acts of petty theft.  A laugh-out-loud gem that’s smarter and more imaginative than the Dumb & Dumber-era Farrelly Brothers movies it recalls.  And yet, it’s somehow just as hopelessly, delightfully stupid.

Read Alli’s picks here.
Read Boomer’s picks here.
Read Brandon’s picks here.
Read Britnee’s picks here.
Read CC’s picks here.
See Hanna’s picks here.
Hear James’s picks here.

-The Swampflix Crew

Britnee’s Top 15 Films of 2021

1. Titane My favorite film of 2021! I’m sure it will end up on everyone’s list in the Swampflix crew because it’s very “Swampy”; it just fits the mold of movies we love. What initially seems to be a wacky film about a homicidal woman who was impregnated by a car turns out to be a movie about gender identity and unconditional love.

2. Willy’s Wonderland My favorite version of Nic Cage is the silent and violent Nic Cage that gave us Mandy, which I wholeheartedly believe is one of the best films of all time. He does it again in Willy’s Wonderland, but this time, he’s fighting against a crew of Chuck E. Cheese style animatronic characters possessed with the souls of satanic cannibals. It is a high energy ride from beginning to end, and I really dug it.

3. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar This was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a very long time. It felt like a throwback to those late 90s/early 2000s comedies that were just pure stupid fun. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are my new comedy queens, and I hope that they get to make a ton of sequels. I am forever grateful for having this movie come into my life during this god-awful pandemic. 

4. Malignant A new horror icon is born! This felt like a b-horror movie from the 70s or 80s with a dash of nu metal horror from the aughts. The nightmare that the film opens with morphs into a completely unexpected plot twist that literally made me scream. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. 

5. The Night House This is one of the most unique horror films that I’ve ever seen. There are subtle hints dropped here and there that are enough to give you some explanation of all the spooky stuff happening, but nothing prepares you for the ending. It’s so damn smart.

6. Pig The second Nic Cage movie on my list, but it’s miles away from being in the same bucket as Willy’s Wonderland. He’s such a complex actor! Pig is a very quiet “revenge” film that tugged at all my heart strings and reminded me how beautiful a perfect meal could be.

7. Swan Song There aren’t many LGBTQ+ films with elderly main characters, which is a pity considering these individuals have been through hell and back in their experiences. Swan Song is a film that focuses strictly on its main character, an elderly gay hairdresser portrayed by Udo Kier. Kier is best known for playing supporting roles, but he is a force to be reckoned with in this lead performance.

8. The Woman in the Window Yes, the reviews are terrible, but I just couldn’t stop watching this trashy Hitchcockian thriller. It’s a total blast! I had so much fun and found so much comfort watching this movie. It reminds me so much of silly thrillers from the 90s; it’s just missing Michael Douglas. 

9. Saint Maud The ending of Saint Maud had everyone talking, and it was indeed worthy of the attention. However, what really stuck with me was the relationship between Maud and Amanda. I still go back and forth in my mind trying to figure out what it really meant. Such a haunting film for so many reasons.

10. Gaia The only eco horror film that I watched in 2021. Gaia was so good that I felt satisfied with keeping it that way. It’s an atmospheric masterpiece. Plus, there’s spooky mushroom people!

11. The Power of the Dog What a wonderful yet unnerving film. I went into this not expecting much, and I was completely blown away. I guess I’m into Westerns now?

12. False Positive The second-best pregnancy horror of 2021 (the first being Titane). It has a very interesting way of exploring how scary it is to be pregnant with no control over your body. Also, I can’t believe how amazing Pierce Brosnan is at playing a villain. 

13. Old I love trying to figure out the puzzles in M. Night Shyamalan movies, and I wish the world could be blessed with a few of these every year. Old delivers exactly what you’d expect from a Shyamalan movie, and that is 100% a good thing.

14. The Green Knight My new favorite Christmas movie! It’s a medieval tale with A24 horror stylings that make for a unique work of art. 

15. Mandibles This goofy French buddy comedy about a really cute giant fly is just as fun as it sounds. It’s a total gem of a movie that offers some big laugh out loud moments.

-Britnee Lombas

Episode #151 of The Swampflix Podcast: The Top Films of 2021

Welcome to Episode #151 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss their favorite films of 2021.

00:00 Welcome

06:00 Gaia
13:13 Summer of Soul
14:04 Ema
17:40 The Green Knight
23:03 Zola
29:25 The Woman in the Window
38:10 Benedetta
42:43 Pvt Chat
46:55 Swan Song
54:48 Beast Beast
1:00:45 Lapsis
1:05:10 Bo Burnham: Inside
1:10:00 The Killing of Two Lovers
1:15:05 The Night House
1:20:30 Malignant
1:24:40 The French Dispatch
1:31:10 French Exit
1:34:30 I Blame Society
1:38:40 Willy’s Wonderland

1:43:55 Licorice Pizza
1:53:22 Riders of Justice
2:00:55 Saint Maud
2:07:10 Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

2:13:10 The Power of the Dog
2:27:00 Pig
2:40:55 Titane

James’s Top 20 Films of 2021

  1. Pig
  2. Titane
  3. Riders of Justice
  4. The Power of the Dog
  5. The Killing of Two Lovers
  6. Saint Maud
  7. Licorice Pizza
  8. Benedetta
  9. The Green Knight
  10. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
  11. Red Rocket
  12. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
  13. The Father
  14. The Night House
  15. Some Kind of Heaven
  16. Summer of Soul
  17. Shadow in the Cloud
  18. Malignant
  19. Dune
  20. Till Death

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Alli’s Top 5 Films of 2021

1. Titane Wow.  Just wow.  This movie has so much to say, and it just shouts it in your face.  The explorations of gender performance are grotesque and brutal.  The body horror is absolutely disgusting.  Julia Ducournau made a greasy, Cronenbergian nightmare that I didn’t want to wake up from.  At times it is overwhelmingly explicit and unflinchingly focused on its gory violence, but it leaves enough open to interpretation that it’s not just dumbed down brutality. 

2. In the Earth It’s easy at the beginning to think this movie is just going to be a basic slasher.  During a pandemic, a scientist and a park ranger venture into the woods to figure out why no one has heard from a researcher who has isolated herself to study a vast mycorrhizal network.  Then, a crazed man obsessed with a photography project gone wrong chases after them with an axe.  Yet there’s nothing basic here.  This movie dips into psychedelic sci-fi and odd character studies at times, eventually introducing a lady who plays keyboards to trees alone in the woods.  A vision of isolation making us crazy; Brandon best described this movie as people taking their COVID hobbies too far.  I think I chose the wrong hobbies and should have picked up playing synths in the forest to talk to trees.

3.  I Blame Society To make movies you kind of have to be a horrible person.  You have to obsessively craft a story and a vision and believe in it enough to see it through. Also, you have to convince a whole team of people to back you up and let you boss them around.  It takes a special kind of self-absorption and narcissism that just gets written off for men who we consider geniuses.  What if you’re a woman just starting out?

Gillian Wallace Horvat plays herself as an independent filmmaker that can’t get any support for her films.  Instead of giving up she doubles down on a project inspired by a couple of her real-life friends saying that she would make a great serial killer.  It quickly spirals out of control, and she becomes an actual serial killer.  It’s hilarious.  There’s a moment in this movie that will stick with me forever where she’s in the home of a future victim, drinking wine in her underwear, and she says, “I’m living my best life.”    This movie is so angry and bratty, and I loved every second of it.

4.  Pig It’s satisfying to watch a movie based in the town where you live and have it get the setting exactly right, especially when it’s in subtle ways.  There’s a scene in this movie where Nic Cage’s character sneaks into the backyard of his old house and has an amazing conversation with a child playing a weird instrument, and it’s an absolutely accurate and genuinely Portland moment.  The conversation he has with a chef at a pretentious restaurant where the man cannot give a straight answer about his craft is 100% Portland.  (Why can no one here deliver unpleasant answers directly?) Forsaking city life and fame to harvest truffles in a rustic cabin in the woods is exactly what someone from Portland would do.  It’s not the only thing I liked about this movie, but it’s a special feeling to have my adopted hometown portrayed so accurately and even lovingly for all its many flaws.

Nic Cage gives a heartbreaking performance.  Remembering the importance of food—especially a good meal prepared by a talented chef—is something many of us are holding onto right now while we wait for safe time outside the house.  The heart of this movie is big, genuine, and forgiving, which is why it’s so beautiful and moving.  I cried.  A lot.

5.  The Medium This year, I liked a lot of very combative movies.  This one is no exception. 

A mockumentary/found footage horror about a spiritual medium’s niece becoming possessed is not a hard sell for me.  This started out as a sequel to The Wailing, which is a movie I liked enough to do an entire Lagniappe Podcast episode about it.  Obviously and thankfully, it became its own thing.  A chipper woman becomes possessed, gradually wastes away, and becomes a wraith; her devout shaman aunt starts to question her own belief system and place in the world; and the whole family tries to hold itself together despite decades of cultural and spiritual differences.  Ultimately, everyone gets ripped apart, even the film crew. 

There’s a lot of questions here about whether filming this family drama is exploitative.  The crew is constantly asked, “Do you have to film everything?” Like I said before, to be a filmmaker you kind of have to be awful, so yes, they do continue to film it all, until it’s way too late.  The filmmaking itself is even weaponized and used by the demon to up its body count, at one point even beating a woman with a camera.  What is more important: family privacy and safety or artistic integrity?  Is documenting this event worth it?

Runners-Up!

Saint Maud Religious devotion gone way too far.  Feels like how the actual stories of saints would play out if we looked at them through a modern, critical lens. 

Bo Burnham: Inside I didn’t expect to like this, but for something that starts out as ye olde times YouTube humor, it truly hooks you.  By the end, you feel like something vital has been ripped out and put on display for everyone to see. 

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar Friendship is beautiful and powerful.

The Green Knight A beautiful visualization of an Arthurian quest.  Gritty enough to modernize and critique the myths, but not so much that the magic is lost.

-Alli Hobbs

Lagniappe Podcast: Titane (2021)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, BoomerBrandon, and Alli discusJulia Ducournau’s Titane, a distinctly macho, thematically elusive nightmare about a serial killer who learns how to love a fellow human being as much as she loves cars.

00:00 Welcome

04:55 Midnight Mass (2021)
06:45 The Medium (2021)
09:05 Pig (2021)
11:17 Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)
15:01 Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
17:00 Pottersville (2017)
18:38 I Blame Society (2021)
20:15 All Light, Everywhere (2021)
24:27 Cruella (2021)
25:37 The MCU
42:04 The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

49:49 Titane (2021)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

– The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

Brandon’s Top 20 Films of 2021

1. Titane A surreally macho, thematically elusive nightmare from Julia Ducournau, the director of Raw.  As with the perpetually underseen & underappreciated The Wild Boys (the very best movie of the 2010s), it’s a nuclear gender meltdown with no clear sense to be made in its burnt-to-the-ground wreckage.  A thrilling experience in both cases, both of which find unlikely refuge in the violence of pure-masc camaraderie & social ritual.

2. I Blame Society An incredibly dark comedy about a struggling filmmaker who realizes her skills behind the camera resemble the skills needed to pull off The Perfect Murder, then quickly turns into a serial killer.  Feels like it was aimed directly at my tastes, from the no-budget D.I.Y. aesthetic to the transgressive joy of Difficult Women to the flippant meta commentary on movies as an artform.  Love to be pandered to bb.

3. French Exit Leaving Las Vegas for pompous, affluent drag queens.  I loved Michelle Pfeiffer’s scenery chewing in mother! and I feel like I’ve been waiting for this exact career resurgence vehicle for her ever since.  Just deliciously vicious camp from start to end; easily one of her career best.

4. The French Dispatch Maybe my favorite Wes Anderson since The Royal Tenenbaums, or at least a perfect encapsulation of everything he’s been playing with since then.  People often complain about how visually lazy studio comedies are, so here’s a film packed with Hollywood Celebrities where every scene is overloaded with gorgeous visuals and hilarious jokes.  

5. Pig “A John Wick knockoff about Nic Cage fighting to recover his stolen truffle pig?  Sounds like a hoot and a half.” Cut to me struggling to see the screen because crying into my mask is fogging up glasses.  An understated execution of a preposterous premise, refusing to behave either as a sober return-to-form showcase for the often-mocked actor or as fodder for his infinite supply of so-bad-its-good YouTube highlight reels.  It’s its own uniquely beautiful, tenderly macho thing, with more to say about culinary arts than the peculiar flavors of Cage’s screen presence.

6. Lapsis A high-concept, low-budget satire about our near-future gig economy dystopia.  It doesn’t aim for the laugh-a-minute absurdism of Sorry to Bother You, but it’s maybe even more successful in pinpointing exactly how empty and draining it feels to live & work right now.

7. Beast Beast Tubi’s bold foray into prestigious festival acquisitions: a very Sundancey teen drama about gun violence, one that’s both horrified by and in reverent awe of the Internet as a creative or destructive tool, depending on who’s wielding it. The ultimate example of the dictum “It’s not what happens but how it happens,” as its hyperkinetic, youthful style entirely overpowers its afternoon-special PSA plotting. Think of it as the Gen-Z version of Elephant.

8. Pvt Chat A grim internet-age romance starring Uncut Gems‘s Julia Fox as a camgirl dominatrix with the world’s wormiest fuckboy client.  Late-night NYC mania & grime de-fanged by the cold isolation of life online.  No Wave filmmaking echoed in 1’s & 0’s. Small & intimate, but explicitly about how all modern relationships have been completely drained of their intimacy.

9. Zola Genius in its costuming & dark humor, but what really struck me is how unbearably tense it is as soon as it embarks on its road trip to Floridian Hell. I hadn’t read its infamous online source material, so I had no idea where it was going (except that @zolamoon lived to tweet about it).  Scarier than any horror movie I watched this year.

10. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar A delightful throwback to a very specific type of absurdist buddy comedy that rarely gets made anymore (Romy & Michelle, Zoolander, Dude Where’s My Car?, etc). Also an underdog contender for the year’s most crowd-pleasing musical.

11. Annette Leos Carax’s entertainment-industry rock opera, originally composed as a concept album by the avant-garde pop group Sparks.  The nagging question of whether it’s Good Weird or just Weird Weird never fades at any point during its unwieldy runtime, but I’m cool with it either way.  It has a sense of humor about itself, and there’s nothing else like it: two qualities that can’t be undervalued.

12. The Matrix Resurrections Lana Wachowski’s New Nightmare: a platform for her to reflect on the core philosophy & romance of her most iconic work while lashing out at a movie industry that seeks to dilute & pervert it for an easy cash-in. I most loved being trolled by the opening fifteen minutes; just the absolute worst-nightmare version of what it could be before it reveals what it’s actually doing. It’s an A+ prank, both on the audience and on the higher-ups at Warner Brothers.

13. Bo Burnham: Inside When it pretends to be a sketch comedy revue, it’s very hit or miss joke-by-joke, song-by-song.  By the time it mutates into full-on video art about Internet Age despair it feels like something substantial, though, meaning it works better as a movie than it does as a comedy special.

14. In the Earth The exact psychedelic folk horror it’s advertised to be, except with an entire slasher about an axe-wielding maniac piled on top just to push it into full-on excess.  As a nightmare reflection of our collective, COVID-era mindset, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what it’s doing except to say that it’s impressively strange, upsetting stuff considering its limited scope & budget.  A rare example of COVID Cinema that aims for something intangible and indescribable, something that captures the existential horrors of current life rather than the logistical ones.

15. Benedetta Part erotic thriller, part body possession horror, part courtroom & political drama, pure Paul Verhoeven.  I was fully prepared for its sexual theatrics & religious torments, but completely blindsided by its visions of Jesus as a sword-wielding warrior from a romance novel.  My only disappointment is that it backs off from illustrating Benedetta’s visions in the second half in a ludicrous nod to “playing both sides”; would’ve loved to see more fantasies of Jesus as a hunky heavy-metal badass.

16. Saint Maud Speaks both to my unquenchable thirst for the grotesque as a horror nerd and my unending guilt-horniness-guilt cycle as a lapsed Catholic.  I appreciate it more each rewatch for what it actually is (an intensely weird character study) instead of what I wanted it to be (a menacingly erotic sparring match between a religious-zealot nurse and her atheist patient).

17. Lucky A high-concept home invasion horror about a woman who’s cyclically attacked by the same masked killer night after night after night.  Works best as a darkly funny act of audience gaslighting and a surprisingly flexible metaphor about gender politics.  Recalls the matter-of-fact absurdism of time-loop thrillers like Timecrimes & Triangle, with a lot of potential to build the same gradual cult following if it finds the right audience.  

18. Red Rocket Another bleak poverty-line comedy from Sean Baker, except this time it’s more of a feel-bad hangout vibe than a nonstop plummet into chaos, and the protagonist is deeply unlikeable instead of charmingly vulgar.  It’s like a goofier, laidback version of Good Time, where you feel terrible laughing while a desperate scumbag exploits every poor soul in their path just to keep their own head slightly above water.  Really slows down to make you squirm between the punchlines.

19. Mandibles Quentin Dupieux’s absurdist comedy about bumbling criminals who adopt & corrupt a gigantic housefly so it can join them in acts of petty theft.  Last year’s Deerskin felt like a career high for Dupieux, especially in its sharp self-satirical humor about the macho narcissism of filmmaking as an artform.  This finds him backsliding into his more typical comedies about Nothing, just two dumb buds being dumb buds who now have a weird pet.  He totally gets away with it, though, solely on the virtue of the jokes being very funny. 

20. Cryptozoo Dash Shaw’s mildly psychedelic fantasy comedy about a futuristic zoo for cryptids.  Like My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, it’s a bizarre clash of far-out visual play & laidback aloofness, calling into question how much its internal ethical conflicts are intended to be taken seriously vs how much they’re an ironic joke about the film’s own sprawling, convoluted mythology.  Shaw’s work is never boring to look at, though, even if his characters appear to be bored within them.  His visual playfulness is a quality that’s increasingly difficult to find in modern animation, questions of sincerity be damned.

-Brandon Ledet

Titane (2021)

Julia Ducournau’s coming-of-age cannibal horror, Raw, was a ferocious debut – one that was misinterpreted as a pure gross-out body horror when it’s actually something much slipperier and difficult to pin down.  Beyond all Ducournau’s obvious strengths as a visual stylist & provocateur, I really loved how resistant that film was to being saddled with a 1:1 metaphor.  In a time when so much modern horror functions as on-the-surface parables about hot topics like Trauma, Grief, and Gentrification, it’s refreshing to chow down on a movie that’s impossible to tether to a single, concise message.  Raw is clearly about some kind of youthful, sinister awakening & appetite that extends beyond the literal consumption of human flesh, but any attempt to summarize its full meaning feels reductive & inadequate.  I think that’s wonderful.  And I’m even more impressed that Ducournau doubled down on that ambiguity in her follow-up to Raw, the same way that Jordan Peele left a lot more room for interpretation & discomfort in Us than he did the tightly written metaphor machine of his own debut, Get Out.  Like Us, I suspect Titane will be more divisive than Raw precisely because it’s messier and more difficult to encapsulate in a single interpretation; also like Us, I think it’s an improvement from Ducournau’s debut for that exact reason.  All I can really articulate myself is that I loved squirming my way through this distinctly macho, thematically elusive nightmare.

Titane follows a stone-cold serial killer’s journey from despising all of humanity to learning how to love & depend on at least one other human being.  She starts off as a car-show stripper who shares more intimacy & eroticism with the machines she grinds on than with her fellow dancers or family at home.  Her favorite ways to blow off steam are to murder strangers and have sex with hotrods.  I will not recap the details of her fairy tale journey once her cover is blown and she’s left running from the law, but I will say that she does begrudgingly stumble into a genuine social connection with another emotionally steeled loner in her travels.  There’s a pithy, reductive way to discuss Titane as a movie “about” found family, but that barely scrapes the surface flesh of this prickly beast.  If there’s any thematic organization to the dark fairy tale realm Ducorneau explores here, it’s in her antiheroine’s immersion in a world of pure machismo.  Strippers, flames, fistfights, car engines, and steroid-injected muscle brutes carve out the film’s aggressively macho hellscape, while all the Cronenergian body horror that unfolds within is a hardening & a grotesque mutation of AFAB bodily functions.  As with the perpetually underseen & underappreciated The Wild Boys (the very best movie of the 2010s), Titane is a nuclear gender meltdown with no clear sense to be made in its burnt-to-the-ground wreckage.  It’s a thrilling experience in both cases, both of which find unlikely refuge in the violence of pure-masc camaraderie & social ritual.

Titane directly calls back to distinct images & motifs from Raw that reinforce Ducorneau’s voice as a fully formed, new-to-the-scene auteur: under-the-sheets writhing, silently suffering fathers, itchy skin, and even a small role for Raw‘s central anti-heroine, Garance Marillier as Justine.  It’s her films’ discomforting ambiguity that really excites me about what’s she’s capable of, though.  When she wants to convey the excruciating experience of relating to a fellow human being, she doesn’t externalize that social dysfunction as a metaphorical monster; she instead contrasts how disgusting & pathetic our bodies are against the slick efficiency of shiny chrome car parts – framing the machines with a fetishistic beauty rarely seen outside of a Russ Meyer or Kenneth Anger film.  So, what does it mean within that thematic paradigm when the human body starts gushing motor oil?  Your guess is as good as anyone’s, which is exactly why this is great cinema.

-Brandon Ledet