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Film

Je te mangerais' Psychotic Lesbian, et al

Posted by Andrés / September 1, 2009

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MWFF'09 Film Report #2 If you managed to catch French director Sophie Laloy's Je te mangerais (You Will Be Mine), I'd love to hear your impressions. While it managed to be one of the most intriguing films in the last few days of the festival, it also struck a sour chord with me - ironic because its protagonist is an aspiring classical pianist, and the music itself was wonderful. What bothered me was its propagation of the antiquated archetype of the psychotic lesbian.

Marie, in order to avoid the two hour trek into Paris for her piano classes, moves in with a friend of the family: Emma. It is soon all too clear that tall, lanky and quiet Emma is infatuated with Marie's presence, jealous of the time she spends with her friends, and soon demands a strict curfew. The obsession turns sexual and there are many instances in which Emma's passions translate into violence. Marie, who is cute and naive, seems unable to fight back and reluctantly gives in to these passionate outbursts.

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On a visceral level, Laloy's film is devoid of any formal elements we would expect from a thriller - there's no menacing shadows, or jump-out-of-your-seat frightful moments; but Emma is a kind of black widow. Her slow movements seem calculated and calm, but she could strike out quickly at any moment. In many ways she reminded me of Murnau's Nosferatu; an image aided by her apparent love for organ music. Emma is abusive, jealous, possessive, controlling, obsessive and positively inhuman. She is a reincarnation of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), a popular figure of the traditional lesbian archetype of films of old. While the existence of abusive lesbians, like abusive heteros, is not disputed, there is no attempt to understand Emma's character. Unlike another recent film dealing with domestic abuse, contemporary cinema has been more liberal in trying to explain (if not excuse) the actions of the abuser. Why is this not the case for Emma? Why must she retain all the detrimental elements of the psychotic lesbian without the benefits of the recent movements to find the humanity in even the most depraved humans? And here I thought we went through all this with Sharon Stone's character in Basic Instinct.

Briefly, the other films: What You Don't See (dir. Wolfgang Fischer, Germany) was a dud about a teenage kid who (I clearly saw) had Freudian issues with his mother and befriends two imagined friends who help him break out of his shell. Be Sure to Share is the latest film by Japanese director Sion Sono (Love Exposure) and was a big change from the twisted films he's known for. In this one, a son plans a fishing trip for his father's release from hospital; the message is that we should share our feelings with one another before it is too late. It's a bittersweet film that was a decent watch, but suffered from pretty awkward dialogue.

A Room and a Half (dir. Andrey Khrzhanovsky, Russia) is an experimental pseudo-biography of real poet Joseph Brodsky. While basically telling his life story from birth to death, there are some excellent animated sequences born from the narrator's imagination: of note one depicting the change in Russian life before and after the revolution. Lastly, The Childhood of Icarus (dir. Alexandre Iordachescu, France/Romania/Switzerland) is notable for being the last starring Guillaume Depardieu. Gerard's son passed away last year due to complications with pneumonia while he was on set filming this movie. There is a promising start, some great acting by Guillaume (whose real life story parallels the film) and an intriguing science fiction story about eternal life: but it all sort of falls apart half way through and soon becomes a film about nothing.

You can watch The Childhood of Icarus at the Cinema Quartier Latin on September 2nd at 3:10pm, and September 3rd at 5:20pm.

Other Cities: Toronto