Philippe Grandrieux  

French auteur experimenting with a new language of cinema that uses light and the camera to attempt to involve the audience in a primal experience of the movie's events. Plot is secondary, non-existent or indirect, the movie focusing primarily on the sensorial experience of its characters which are often involved in dark, intense, sexual, violent or passionate life events. The camera shakes, blurs, zooms-in with extreme close-ups, delivering its darkly lit and hazy imagery in 'primal' visual experiences that are experienced rather than seen. That's the theory, at least, and obviously, this kind of thing will not appeal to many although he made a name for himself in art-house circles. As opposed to Zulawski, the primal emotions aren't channeled through a raw state of being and the emotions of his actors, but mostly via the camera, thus punishing his audience that have to endure the unnatural camera and light. In addition, the topics he covers in his movies are simply not developed enough and are not interesting. So, for the rest of us, his movies will just be a pretentious and superficial attempt to involve the audience in something unrewardingly dark by punishing their senses. 'A Lake', his third movie, is not reviewed here and covers less extreme content with similar experimental dark and shaky camera-work on the topic of intense relationships and emotions. Also released a highly experimental trilogy of non-movies 'White Epilepsy', 'Murderess' and 'Unrest' which only show naked bodies very slowly moving and writhing in dark woods for an hour. Reviewed until 2016.


Despite the Night  
A natural progression for Grandrieux from his previous movies into the territory of sex, pornography, obsession and sadomasochism. Grandrieux reduces his characters to something worse than animals and doesn't give them a way out. They are bestial, but with the extra additives of self-awareness and passions all warped to serve the lowest whims and lusts, resulting in humanity that hates itself and others. The movie portrays a group of people that are lost in soul-sucking indulgence, or cling to others with desperate neediness and self-loathing, to the point of masochism and even snuff, with an extra depraved twist. There's also a disturbing relationship between a man and his daughter, both as lost as everyone else. All this is portrayed with the usual cinematography of darkness and blurry primal lusts. This movie is worse than bestial, it is pointless, soulless... and boring.

New Life, The  
Grandrieux's sophomore experiment after Sombre is more extreme in its audio-visual primal experimentation. The movie is a patchwork of scenes, most of them bleak, agitated, raw and dark. We see humans sold like pieces of meat, an endlessly depressing scene of a forced prostitute having her hair sliced off with a knife, an American who falls for the whore, a disturbingly abusive client, some strange pimps and criminals, a strip-club and disco party, etc. Slowly we piece together the cliched story of a boy who falls for a prostitute and who wants to save her from her pimps. Frantic and bestial passions are allowed free reign, with the cinematography and sound intimately taking part in this primal fugue of life in the gutter, with even dogs being pushed to more animalistic behaviour. But the characters are empty caricatures, the plot is non-existent, there are no insights or rewards, and the only thing this avant-garde cinema achieves is to bring you down to its level. You can't elevate pornography to art by simply shaking the camera.

With a shaky, blurry, dark camera that makes Dogma '95 look like a Disney production, this film tries to explore the dark and monstrous in humanity. A rapist-murderer who performs puppet shows for kids tours the country impulsively killing whores. When he meets a virginal beauty however, she threatens his darkness with a loving, blinding light so he tries to rape and murder her sister and make her lose control as well. There are the beginnings of an intense experience here (despite the fact that women are portrayed as either whores or virgins), and Grandrieux has the potential to become another No, but he definitely won't get there by not letting his audience see what's happening on-screen. He also suggested the audience should edit the movie in real-time. What's next, stare at a blank screen and imagine the whole movie ourselves?

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents