JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Gender Bias (Director: Francis Girod) - May 17, 2004

Gender Bias

Mauvais genres

3 3
106 min.

Reviewed for the 2004 Inside Out Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival
Serial chiller a victim of overdone dénouement

The intriguing world of transsexuals, prostitution, police and murder provides so many story possibilities that selecting the nuggets to weave together in this Brussels-set mystery seems to be more complicated than the actual resolution of the plot.

Director/co-writer Francis Girod has cobbled together a tightly moving film that, despite its less than subtle fixation with licence plate close-ups as overdone red herrings, engagingly puzzles and perplexes even while its characters unravel the truth or perish from it.

From the opening notes of Alexandre Desplat’s genre-correct, film-noire score, the visual tone and feel of the sexual wants and confusion than inhabits all of us to some degree rings with knowing vérité, whether it be Bo’s (Robinson Stévenin), who, despite still awaiting her final operation is a delicious femme fatale) coming to terms with past sexual abuse, literally, at her father’s (Marcel Dossogne, looking wonderfully evil) knee or the fully transformed Maeva (portrayed with savvy by William Nadylam) harbouring secret admirers or fending off over-zealous relatives.

As Bo moves back to the city to sing and dance for her adoring or leering fans, she falls head-over-heels for her new neighbour, Johnny (played with an impressive dynamic range and attention-grabbing physique by Stéphane Metzger), who with his best friend and fellow blackmailer Alex (Frédéric Pellegeay can’t seem to handle the challenges of his character as well as those around him) prey on older women who aren’t averse to paying handsomely for a private ménage à trois. Johnny responds to Bo’s unrelenting advances by throwing a constant hard-on even as he breaks her arm or smacks her again to prove his total disinterest: tough love indeed. This theme of the inability to deal with inner feelings and outer appearances is demonstrated by virtually every member of the cast.

Once the murders start piling up (Bo’s colleagues are garrotted, abused and chilled before being dumped in the backyards of the homeless) the police come on scene to, ostensibly, track down the culprits, but, as has been seen time and time again in modern forces, are willfully engaged in criminal acts of their own. Accordingly, their zeal and determination has as many motives and subtexts as the suspects.

The momentum picks up as both the cops and the sex-trade workers suffer mounting casualties. Throughout it all, Bo never loses her resolve to conquer Johnny, but as she relentlessly follows the trail of her friends’ murderer she soon becomes the prime suspect.

Thank goodness for Donizetti. With dead ends, shadowy characters, eye patches and black shoes muddying the waters, it falls to the "Una Furtiva Lagrima" ("A sullen and secretive tear") aria from L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love) to plant the key to the solution. Unfortunately, the last ten minutes lose considerable punch in the extended coda where far too much chatter rather than revealing flashbacks plop all of the missing pieces before us: Puzzle now complete, but the tension and drama merely dissolve rather than diminish with reluctance because we must bid adieu to the neighbourhood where nothing can be assumed until everything has been laid bare. JWR

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