Sunday, October 9, 2011

American Translation

AMERICAN TRANSLATION (Traduit De L'Americain)        C-                                       France  (90 mi)  2011  d:  Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr

What might have been a nod to AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000), a twisted and hilarious tale using serial killing as a scathing social indictment on the anything goes, free-wheeling and out of control opulent lifestyle of Reagan era banking executives, offering a similar contextualization French style, but this was not to be.  Instead this is a grainy and seedy looking movie shot on video that offers instead a putrid looking examination of one revolting individual played by Pierre Perrier as Chris, a loathsome character who is as narcissistic as they come, who feels it is his right to indulge himself any way he sees fit, as that is the ultimate freedom, even when it crosses the line into murder.  There is nothing left to the imagination from the opening scene in the film where an oddly contorted dead body is left deep in the woods with the perpetrator making his anxious getaway.  The film follows the habits of this man for the duration of the film.  Rather than a detached and scientifically objective exposé, this reaches into exaggerations of comic absurdity, becoming so intentionally ridiculous that it loses any significance to the viewer.  Making matters worse is he collects a girlfriend as an accomplice, Lizzie Brocheré as Aurore, the spoiled and pampered daughter of a rich American industrialist, meeting on the dance floor, where she spends much of the rest of the picture naked and helplessly in love, where she can’t take her eyes off of him from the moment she sees him, a theme that continues throughout the movie.

There is plenty of nudity in this film, where the two gorgeously attractive leads portray sexually obsessed lovers that simply have the mating habits of rabbits.  Neither is capable of exhibiting much brain power, as instead they are stirred exclusively by the feelings between their legs.  While there is an initial pang of doubt whether she would survive, but she instead develops a successful coping mechanism with a psycho-sexual killer, which is to agree with everything that he says and become his yes person, reinforcing his right to liberty and freedom through murder, in fact becoming turned on by the idea that her man is invincible and all powerful.  There is something profoundly disturbing that the couple in love has such a blasé attitude towards his “condition,” where even after she discovers the truth about his serial killing, she continues to hop in his lap at his beck and call, kiss and have sex on demand, completely unaware that murder crosses the line.  As the body count rises, the level of absurdity becomes even more ridiculous, where any impact this movie might have had is lost to such a woefully inadequate script written by the director and Jean-Marc Barr, who plays Aurore’s mostly absent father in America. 

Since this is fictionalized and not based on an actual case study, you’d like to think there’s a satirical comment to be made somewhere, but instead this is another sad example of how the French exploit sex onscreen as a kind of societal boredom with themselves, as they can’t help themselves, as the French movie industry continues to churn out sexploitation movies with the thought that they remain somehow socially relevant.  And so long as they find audiences around the world who are willing to showcase this portrait of sex and liberation, oh, and yeah, murder too, they are likely to continue to think that way.  This is nothing like Christophe Honoré’s MA MÈRE (2004), adapted from the Georges Bataille novel by the same name, an odd little story that actually contrasts base sexuality with the divine, as we follow what appears to be a quest for transcendence through hedonism and complete sexual indulgence.  Instead this is closer to a snuff film, as the aphrodisiac of murder to incite sexual desire is a repugnant way to spend two hours in the theater.  Perrier and Brocheré are excellent, if truth be told, as they do exhibit the casual air of becoming lost in one another and losing any connection with the world around them, where his poisonous influence replaces the living blood in her veins, becoming unhinged from herself in the process.  The musical soundtrack may develop something of a cult following, as it’s loud and raucous, but the idea that this is somehow an artistically relevant, realistic reworking of the collected minds of actual serial killers, as this movie suggests in the finale, is simply ludicrous.

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