Sunday, May 29, 2011

Instant Foreign: Dark Portals- The Chronicles of Vidocq

Pardon my French!  This import film is a curious bit of history mixed with fantasy.  There was a real Vidocq, who is considered to be the Father of modern Criminology.  That is very interesting...but not considered enough for the people involved.  Instead, the plot involves a masked killer named The Alchemist who is killing people through fantastical means and stealing their souls.  Yeah, that's a bit of stretch.  It's interesting to note that this movie seems to be tailor-made for International success...but came to America nearly six years after its original release.  The movie is also the Directorial debut of Pitof, the man most famous in America for Directing 2003's Catwoman.  It's kind of a big strike against the guy, especially given that he won a Golden Raspberry Award for it and all.  The film, however, stars Gerard Depardieu- quite possibly the most renowned French actor in America.  Will this film succeed or just smell like brie?  Find out as we hop down one of the...
The film begins with the title character (Vidocq) chasing down a villain in a strange mask.  The guy is dressed like Meng's henchman from Flash Gordon and has a golden mask that shines strangely.  I feel like I started the film in the climax, but let's just go with it.  Vidocq (Depardeau) has a fight with the man/creature, but gets his ass-kicked.  This is all shot in high-speed, 'can't keep up with anything' vision, making it disorienting.  Knocked into a pit, Vidocq asks to see the fiend's face, a request that's granted before he falls in.  With that, the titular hero of the film is dead.  Movie over?  Nope.  Instead, a young biographer for the late-detective shows up, hoping to solve the crime and catch the detective's killer.  The partner retells the events that led up to the beginning/middle of the film.  It all starts with two men walking in a field and being struck by lightning.  No, really.
So the film is a bit confusing.  You see, we follow the young guy talking to people.  This leads to flashbacks.  After that, he'll wander about some more.  I'm sorry, but why couldn't you tell this story in normal order?  Is that not 'cool' enough for you?  Hell, why couldn't you just go from the fight in the beginning and lead all the way up to it?  Oh right- the plot.
* A trio of men were killed by the masked man.
* They had a connection to a faux Chinese dancer and were obsessed with their own looks.
* They kidnap virgins for...well, guess.
* Random Vidocq/villain fight!
I can't tell you a whole lot about the plot without spoiling too much of it.  I mean, it is a mystery film, after all.  Basically, you will need to know this...
* The biographer continues to investigate the crime.
* The witnesses tend to die after revealing just enough exposition to keep the plot going.
* The police follow the guy, fearing that he will be the next victim.
* The police and our heroes have a showdown with the villain (The Alchemist).  The reveal of his identity is, well, stupid as hell.  I won't say who it is, but it's pretty damn stupid!
* The day is saved...except for the impending February Revolution.  I smell a sequel...that hasn't been made in the last ten years.  The End.
Style over substance!  The plot of this movie is kind of interesting, but a lot of things drag it down.  The biggest thing, of course, is the way it is put together.  Seriously, the constant jumping between past and present is confusing!  Why can't you use linear storytelling?!?  There is no good reason to tell the story in this manner, other than to build up to the stupid reveal of the villain's identity.  One stupid thing is used to justify the other?  Brilliant!  That said, the acting is pretty good (this is the only Instant Foreign film without Dubbing) and the film has a unique style.  Pitof, you see, started out as a Visual Effects guy for such films as Alien Resurrection.  As such, he brings a neat look and color scheme here.  The problem for me, however, is that it's a bit distracting.  The thing is often too flashy for its own good, especially when you throw in the iffy camera-work.  I can't follow this movie, especially when the whole screen is bright red!  Is the film great?  No.  Is it worth a look?  Absolutely.  As a French film, it is pretty accessible to most people, even if the mystery is a lead-up to, well, stupidity.  Take us away, pre-Sin City visual...
Next up, the month wraps up properly with a film I kept forgetting to review.  Is this Corman film a classic or crap?  Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment