Vincent Tavier

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Alleluia Review


Excellent

Much more than an unsettling horror movie (although it is that too), this film gets under the skin to play with the audience's emotional response, eliciting dark sympathies with the killers. It's an uncanny trick that Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz (Calvaire) does extremely well. He's also adept at putting a fresh spin on a true story that's been filmed three times before (as The Honeymoon Killers in 1969, Deep Crimson in 1996 and Lonely Hearts in 2006) and has inspired countless other murderous-lovers-on-the-run movies.

This time it has an internet twist, as Gloria (Lola Duenas) finds Michel (Laurent Lucas) on a dating website. She prepares for the date by leaving her daughter with a friend (Stephane Bissot); he prepares by burning her photo and chanting, "May Gloria succumb to my charms!" Not that he needs to bother, because she falls for him, invites him home and even gives him some cash for the road. But when he fails to answer her calls, she tracks him down and rumbles him as he seduces another woman for money. Instead of denouncing him, she proposes a partnership, and they pose as brother and sister as he woos Marguerite (Edith Le Merdy). But Gloria has a jealousy problem that turns violently fatal, so they move on to another widow (Anne-Marie Loop), and then another (Helena Noguerra), by which time Michel realises he'll need to sedate Gloria.

Yes, there's a dryly comical slant to the story even as it gets increasingly violent and unnerving. But it only works this well because the filmmaking is fiendishly clever and the actors give bravely realistic performances. Duenas is astonishing as Gloria: funny, passionate and utterly terrifying. And Lucas is just as unflinching in his portrayal of Michel's weakness for women. Both of these characters have very dark souls, but they're great at hiding this from their unsuspecting victims until the last possible moment. The entire cast offers open-handed performances that are utterly transparent, and everything is more alarming as a result.

Continue reading: Alleluia Review

A Town Called Panic [panique Au Village] Review


Good
Extremely silly and often very funny too, this quirky stop-animated romp might have been better as a half-hour short, because there's not really much to it.

But it does manage to keep us chuckling with a continual stream of throwaway gags.

Cowboy and Indian (Aubier and Ellison) are like bickering kids in the home they share with Horse (Patar). Their neighbours Steven and Janine (Poelvoorde and Dumont) are highly strung but loyal friends, and they get rather annoyed when Cowboy and Indian accidentally order 50 million bricks to build a barbecue for Horse's birthday. Then the house walls start disappearing, and the culprit seems to be a team of underwater thieves. So Cowboy, Indian and Horse head off to stop them, ending up at one point inside a gigantic mechanical penguin on the North Pole.

Continue reading: A Town Called Panic [panique Au Village] Review

Man Bites Dog Review


Excellent
From scene one, Man Bites Dog affronts the senses and grabs you by the throat. Our Belgian antihero is first captured on film by the faux documentary crew following him as he strangles a girl to death on a train. We are then treated to his rules on how to properly weight a corpse so that it sinks when you throw it into the river. Women, the elderly, and midgets are all special cases.

Man Bites Dog's Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde, who also wrote/directed/produced as part of a cadre of guerrilla filmmakers who) is unapologetic about his vocation (serial killer). In fact, he's darn proud of it, and he aims to teach us a thing or two not just about the hard work of a madman, but about his racist, misogynistic, and generally misanthropic philosophy too.

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Calvaire Review


OK
Lounge singer Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) trolls the back roads of Belgium in a van crooning at old people's homes. On stage he's extraordinarily dapper, complete with a sequined cape and blush. He sings ballads and septuagenarians and under-loved nurses swoon under his spell. They offer themselves to him backstage, sneak nude photos of themselves into his coat. Marc's stage presence is magical. But off stage he's barely there, a man whose life is void of emotion and meaning and whose dream of making it big is as far away as the stars.

Marc's route to his next show takes him through the heavily forested Hautes Fagnes in Liège. It's a dark, forbidding place, a no man's land of rain drenched forests and isolated, rotting farms. When his van breaks down, Marc makes his way to the only inn nearby. It's a decided austere affair run by a former performer, the chubby and sad Bartel (played by the brilliant Jackie Berroyer). Bartel offers his humble hospitality and help in fixing the van in exchange for some company. Marc accepts. He's got no other options.

Continue reading: Calvaire Review

Man Bites Dog Review


Excellent
From scene one, Man Bites Dog affronts the senses and grabs you by the throat. Our French antihero is first captured on film by the faux documentary crew following him as he strangles a girl to death on a train. We are then treated to his rules on how to properly weight a corpse so that it sinks when you throw it into the river. Women, the elderly, and midgets are all special cases.

Man Bites Dog's Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde, who also wrote/directed/produced as part of a cadre of guerrilla filmmakers who) is unapologetic about his vocation (serial killer). In fact, he's darn proud of it, and he aims to teach us a thing or two not just about the hard work of a madman, but about his racist, misogynistic, and generally misanthropic philosophy too.

Continue reading: Man Bites Dog Review

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