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
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