Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Left Bank

And we close out our month of HROHFYSSBYD with this quality gem, a recent Belgian effort that’s so confident in itself that the DVD proclaims it to be just as important a film as Let the Right One In. While that’s just shameless hucksterism there (though seriously, you should also go see let the Right One In if you haven’t -- best vampire movie of the past decade, easily), it’s a tribute to the quality of Left Bank that I wound up more amused and annoyed by such a claim.
The film stars Eline Kuppens as Marie, a young runner who finds her dreams floating away from her after fainting at a shoe store and learning that she’s too badly ill to compete at a major meet in Portugal in two weeks. This comes shortly after she has a chance encounter with a naked man (Matthias Schoenaerts) who borrows her towel in the locker room, and so naturally rather than suspect he might be in any way connected to her sudden illness she instead agrees to go out with him. Her horror movie survival skills are not incredibly strong here, though in fairness that may well just be due to Belgium not having had a “major” horror movie since 1971’s Malpertuis.

Anyway, she quickly falls in love with him, and after a really hot sex scene (on their first date -- good for them!), she soon moves in with him in his apartment in Left Bank (a really notoriously sketchy neighborhood in Antwerp), where she discovers such things as that the apartment complex was built atop a seemingly bottomless hole of black mud, the girl that used to live in her new apartment mysteriously disappeared, and that the building was also made directly atop a ley line. And also Samhain is rapidly approaching, which I always enjoy in a movie, because it lets you know how they’re talking serious occultism here, unlike us Americans and our bastardized Halloween nonsense.

I am of course being a little snarky here. The movie is actually done really well, establishing a world filled with dark possibilities, and giving us a heroine that isn’t afraid to be somewhat less perfect than most Final Girls. Despite my teasing earlier, she does eventually twig to the fact that her new boyfriend isn’t quite on the up and up, and does try to escape and hide from him. That she doesn’t quite succeed isn’t really completely her fault; she is working alone, after all, and he’s got his whole crew helping him.

Also, while I’m not the biggest fan of children in the world, this movie may be especially resonant with would-be parents or those going through difficult pregnancies, or perhaps also those who had kids and then wished they hadn’t. The theme of childbirth is a pretty strong one throughout the film, beginning with her doctor informing her that she’s only had three periods all year, and if she doesn’t take a break from her training she might never have children. She has multiple dreams involving children, and at one point she wakes up, feels something in her underwear, and when she checks to see if she had her period, instead finds ashes have come out of her vagina. Ladies, I may not be a professional doctor here, but when you have black soot coming from your private region, you may not even want to waste the time needed to get fully dressed before you leave for the hospital.

I hope you enjoyed this past month. I’ll be finishing out the week with some reviews of movies I had seen over the summer but couldn’t fit into these theme months, and then most of the remainder of September will be an extended Q & A session due to my abbreviated schedule then. Feel free to fire off some questions then.

Rating: *** ½

No comments: