Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Criminal Lovers (Les Amants Criminels) (1999)

François Ozon's Criminal Lover's is a nightmarish and realistic tale of the things people will do for love and the consequences those actions can have. Alice is a high school student consumed with lust and a volatile nature; she teases her submissive boyfriend Luc by blindfolding him and describing her various states of undress whilst not actually following through with the actions. He believes every word unquestionably. She uses this power to conspire with Luc to kill Said, a boxing student who has been flirting and making sexual advances toward her. Alice both flirts and resists Said, much to her own annoyance. It seems she unsure of what to make of her feelings toward him.

We are shown in bloodied detail Said's demise and watch as our main characters scrub and clean the murder scene with an almost satisfied enthusiasm. They drive out to a remote forest to bury his remains, but unknown to them they are being watched.

In their attempts to return to their car they get lost and happen upon a small cottage. They break in for food and water, but are hampered in their attempt to leave by the owner who in turn chooses to punish them for their intrusion by locking them in his cellar. From here-on the film takes an almost surreal turn as the two search their imprisoned surroundings only to find the body they had just buried. As the owner upstairs rifles through their belongings he happens upon Alice's diary and we are shown in narrative flashback the events leading up to Said's murder.

In an interesting twist, this tale sees the female left out of immediate peril as the owner takes his retribution out on Luc. As more of the tale unfolds we see her impulse to control and manipulate Luc and his incredulous realization of her betrayal, we see his struggle and confusion about his sexuality in a completely understated and yet powerful performance by Jeremie Renier. We also see the twisted mind and formidable character of Alice as portrayed by Natacha Regnier, whose grasp on reality is slipping and her complete disregard for the consequences of her actions frightening.

I must say that I was a little disappointed with the ending, especially having invested quite heavily in what comes before, but I should point out that I am not sure how else it could have been done. On the whole Ozon's film is a perfectly cast, well layered journey into a fantastical world of manipulation and consequence.

Regrettably I was unable to locate a subtitled trailer:

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