Saturday, July 3, 2010

On-Demand: DON'T LOOK BACK--de Van's diabolical use of Marceau & Bellucci

Back in 2002, a filmmaker named Marina de Van appeared to burst upon us with an odd and creepy movie called In My Skin, devoted to the story of a young woman with deep psychological problems who cuts herself. Yet Ms de Van, no beginner in the least, had been working with Ozon for some time as both actress and writer, as well as doing her own films, mostly shorts, since 1993. Approaching 40, this writer/director should have hit the big time with her newest movie DON'T LOOK BACK (Ne te retourne pas), considering that it's a genre-jumper that succeeds in each of its several genres -- thriller, sci-fi, psychological tale -- and also stars two major European actresses, Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci, both working at or near the top of their form.

Perhaps Ms de Van (shown at left) has bitten off more than today's dumbed-down audiences care to chew, because the movie has gone straight to On-Demand and will probably appear on DVD eventually -- in both of which venues it should find a small but devoted following who don't mind engaging in intelligent puzzlement grounded by a firm understanding of the psychology of the abandoned. Although the movie is one of those, during which, for a full half to two-thirds, you may  be muttering, "WTF is going on here?", I think you will not for a moment be tempted to stop watching.  So well set-up is the premise and follow-through, and so expertly does Ms de Van create her very odd and disturbing scenario (a woman's entire life -- including her apartment, husband, children and even her own image -- begins to change into something else), you'll want to stick around, if only to discover to which genre the movie actually belongs.

Is the writer/wife/mother played by Ms Marceau (above) being somehow "gaslighted," and if so, by whom?  Or is she truly going mad -- or into Alzheimer's?  And yet so real and befuddling are the changes around her -- the placement of a table, the color of one's eyes -- that "reality" is something the viewer begins to question as fervently as does our heroine.

Ms Bellucci, for her part, does a very good job of being mysterious. Of late I have found this actress less riveting than in former days when she seemed to house considerable emotion, as well as the ability to demonstrate it.  Yet, here, in a role that calls for hesitance and quiet discovery, she seems as commanding as ever (every bit as beautiful, too).

The supporting cast is well-chosen and delivers what's necessary (sometimes playing dual roles).  Especially authoritative is Brigitte Catillon (above, left) as an oddly distant "mom," while Andrea Di Stefano (atop Bellucci, below) entices, doubling as one of the hubbies and later as a very hunky waiter.

Don't Look Back (not to be confused with that earlier Bob Dylan movie) is available On-Demand all summer, through September 23, via IFC Films' Festival Direct program.  Click here for instructions on how to get it.


Walter Dryja said...

OH HELL NO, DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME on The 'film' " Don't Look Back", directed by Marina de Van, it is the most convoluted piece of trash I have ever had the displeasure of viewing - psycho junk! It is so bad, I had to see if the ending redeemed it somehow? Hence I have absolutely had to state, this is possibly the worst motion picture I seen in all my 60 years. What an absolute waste of my time and that of your entire production company and cast. AS IT REALLY SUCKS . . . Perhaps it takes a real psychotic or some good acid (LSD) to find any enjoyment or appreciation of this edited nightmare of a twisted motion picture. I'll bet the film editor had his hands full to comply with the directors 'vision'. This wouldn't even cut it as a B movie, maybe a Fuckfare BJ movie, which no one watches. . . at the drive in theatres, of the day. WTF were you thinking? Memorable only for A real big fat ZERO. SO MUCH SO . . . I ,WAS ABSOLUTELY COMPELLED TO WRITE THIS, MY FIRST REVIEW OF ANY FILM. FIVE STARS ***** FOR A MOST MEMORABLE DIAPOINTMENT IN EVERY CONCIEVEABLE WAY !!!

James van Maanen, said...

Wow, Walter-- for the first review of your life, you're pretty passionate! Sorry you hated this one so much, and I hope it wasn't my review that got you to watch it. (Probably not. I suspect you stumbled upon my review after seeing the film and wondering what others had to say about it...? 'Least, I hope so.) My companion and I both enjoyed this one a lot because it was so different from everything else out there. For us it worked on a visual and psychological level. And also, we like movies in which it is difficult to figure things out so easily.

Anyway, readers, here's a hugely dissenting viewpoint from my own that you might want to consider before renting....