Hungry Freaks, Daddy
Taking a cue from critic James Quandt coinage “New French Extremity,” “J’Adore Violence: Cinema of the New French Extremity” is the Museum of Art and Design/MAD’s ten-film series of tangentially related directors’ considerations of violence, sex and taboo quite beyond multiplex fare. The two earlier “forerunners” and eight entries from the last decade and a half are not the stuff of ordinary art houses, either, even if some come courtesy of name directors and actors.
Titled from Frank Zappa and shown also at the Museum of the Moving Image/MoMI two weeks earlier, Hallowe’en night screening was Trouble Every Day, by Claire Denis, whose New York Film Festival noir Bastards is like to bring her wider recognition. As with many of the director’s fictions, unsettling music -- British indie rock group and Denis regulars, Tindersticks -- helps tie together elements that lack normal continuity including marginalized characters whose motivations and interrelationships remain murky. Exposition appears to be as much dream as reality, objective facts less important than subjective memory, and longtime collaborator Agnès Godard’s camera a psychological end in itself.
The result shocked Cannes in 2001, provoking complaints and walkouts, though the neo-horror is not so straight gory as many a mainstream actioner. Lovey-dovey Americans Shane and June Brown (Denis veteran Vincent Gallo and Tricia Vessey) honeymoon in Paris. It is difficult to piece out, but he cannot, or will not, consummate the marriage -- later events might indicate that virginal she is too beloved to be sacrificed -- and has chosen their destination so as to search out disgraced Guyanese doctor Léo Sémenau (Alex Descas), under whom he once worked and whose research findings he may have stolen.
Léo tools around on a motorcycle, partly to find and spirit away comatose wife Coré (Béatrice Dalle) after yet another of her escapes from imprisonment in their home. Whether the infirmity she and Shane seem to share results from the doctor’s experiments or their own foolhardiness, whether the neon laboratory in his basement is geared toward a cure, and whether he is the source of palliative pills, are not clarified. The unnamed illness, or condition, is hinted at early on in the wife’s alfresco encounter with a trucker and brutally confirmed later when she entices a young neighbor into her bedroom prison: desire becomes unbridled lust becomes cannibalization of parts of the object of that frenzy.
This voracious post-coital praying mantis behavior is to some viewers meant as caution against scientific inquiry, with the unusual female-male pattern truncated and reversed when Shane tracks Coré to the blood-smeared house. On the other hand, his earlier Frankenstein monster imitation beside Notre Dame Cathedral gargoyles would point more to a parodic attempt at blurring the lines between fun horror and serious commentary, low- as against highbrow stances.
Much in a Denis work depends on players’ silences instead of monologues or dialogues. Verbal communication reduced to a minimal and elliptical, the effect is suggestive as opposed to denotative. One cooperates and accepts connotations in TED, or else is repelled by both style and content (or lack thereof); there should be no middle ground.
(Released by Lot 47 Films; not rated by MPAA.)