(2002) dir. Christophe Gans
The French kick-boxing/martial arts historical period werewolf movie. A truly freakish yet unique mixture of genres that have very probably never before merged in a single film. It’s so bizarre that I was compelled to see it (on DVD, of course).
Sometimes bringing together disparate ideas can create something altogether new and fresh. Sometimes, it’s just plain bizarre. In this case, it’s a little more of the latter.
The film’s faults, in my opinion, stem mostly from the execution of this film. It’s put together with all the charm and style of a straight-to-cable soft-core porn film (and don’t ask me how I know this). In the action sequences, for instance, the use of slow motion and still shots just read as tacky rather than stylish. A lot of the film plays out in numerous cinematic cliches. It struck me as funny the lack of irony and humor the film had about its blatant absurdity.
I found the narrative a little muddled toward the end, not fully understanding exactly what was going on. It makes for a tough time on sorting out any analysis of its discourse, as the resolution never fully made sense to me. The film’s hero, Grégoire de Fronsac, is a well-traveled man of science, a naturalist. He represents the Enlightenment, particularly as he is opposed to the country folk who harbor many prejudices and superstitious beliefs. Interestingly, Fronsac travels with Mani, a Iroquois native American, whose mystic beliefs are less-disparaged.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so if please skip this paragraph if you are concerned about me “spoiling” the ending for you. That said, I don’t fully know what happened, so I don’t know if I am spoiling anything. The locals seem to be connected to the secret of the “beast,” which I think isn’t even a werewolf, nor supposed to be a mystic creature at all, though they never say what it is supposed to be. It’s like a weirdly-armored giant hyena or something (and why is it armored?) which was supposed to have been brought in from Africa. There is some connection about how the Roman-Catholic church is tied to the monster, though it is protected by the towns poorest inhabitants, who start the film sympathetically but later evolve into Road Warrior-like semi-human fighting machines who kill Mani. The film seems to indict the church, the government, and the peasants. There does seem to be some science vs. superstition. thing. And then the whore that turns out to be working for the church like some secret agent? Did I get that right?
Clearly, I was muddled on some major plot points.
Any way you slice it, however, this film is a sprawling, weird and pretty unsatisfying mess. Still, I will give it points for being confoundingly strange and unlike any other film that I can really bring to mind.