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Who Killed Bambi?
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by Greg Muskewitz

"A far cry from any relation to Disney."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 PALM SPRINGS INT’L FILM FEST: Directorial debut of Gilles Marchand, who co-writes here (with “technical assistance” from Dominik Moll, who directed alone and co-wrote With a Friend Like Harry with Marchand), about a nurse-in-training (Sophie Quinton) who stumbles onto some major issues of malpractice.

The film, which debuted at least year’s Festival de Cannes, is a strong examination into the minimalist practice of filmmaking, adeptly applying less as more. (Less pretense, less ego, less razzle-dazzle, less clutter, but more suspense, more straight-faced and surefootedness.) Slick in its presentation, a sterile, antiseptic atmosphere (lots of white on white), appropriate to the hospital environment, Marchand manipulates with great effect the path mystery is to take. Having used similar tactics in Harry, so barren in its minimalism as to remove all signs of suspense, the direction of his own material is rewarding in that as slowly as the expectancy in events are to rise, his use of flirting and seducing certain elements only to temporarily pause their impetus, have a greater effect later when the motion has been reactivated. Bambi’s heroine is Isabelle, naïve but plucky; anesthesia she administers has been tampered with, diluted. The doctor who is secretly siphoning the liquid drug (Laurent Lucas, title character of the Moll film) is using it to induce sleep on patients and molest them post-operatively. His motives, not his identity, are the mystery, or the cause for suspense, initially. And once Isabelle, whom he dubs Bambi (after all, Quinton is doe-eyed and deer-like), is given probable cause for suspicion, despite the meager steely warmth the doctor emits to her, when he begins to investigate an ear ailment she has just begun to suffer from, it warrants both hers and our skepticism in his sincerity. Yet for all the soft-footing and awareness in dealing with the tension, Marchand still capably gets the pulse-rate to accelerate through the doubt of conviction in the story’s rejection to be certain of its actions at each and every moment. Our doubt may be solidified at a much earlier period, insofar as we have witnessed the doctor’s drug-lifting and patient molestation, but the protagonist must get to that level herself. One of the advantages, or unexpected positions Marchand takes, is not to employ Isabelle as a full-fledged sleuth. Only once the implication is without a doubt in her mind does she try to take things into her own hands; the film isn’t as interested by the search for the truth, it’s interested in her journey into confusion — confusion of her condition, reservations about her profession, discomfort and betrayal of an expected honorable figure. And at all times, Marchand is cool-headed and relaxant in his control of the film as a production, with its anesthetic lull — a preferable restraint at which to watch this unfold — as well as his control of generating tension that seeps under your skin. The grounded performance of Quinton makes her someone to keep an eye on, and Lucas’ villainy is always kept to a realistic size, rejecting the notion to blow it up to movie monster size, which is no less appreciated. With Catherine Jacob and Yasmine Belmadi.

[Masterpiece.]

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8601&reviewer=172
originally posted: 02/02/04 18:39:35
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 FilmFest Kansas City For more in the 2005 FilmFest Kansas City series, click here.

User Comments

7/22/05 Lotty Stunning 5 stars
8/06/04 Chris A fantastic confrontaction of confused emotion and suspence. beautiful. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-Nov-2004 (NR)
  DVD: 05-Apr-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
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