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Total Crap: 7.69%

2 reviews, 1 rating

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Flower of Evil, The
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by Erik Childress

"More Talky French With Secrets"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: As I carried myself from one screening to another during the weeks leading up to the Chicago Film Festival where the regular weekly releases converged with festival screenings, colleagues kept asking me the same question. “Are you seeing the Chabrol film?” “Have you seen the Chabrol film?” “Did you just come from the Chabrol film?” Now, I knew who Chabrol was, but if I were to ask those questions it would stem from the inquiry about the film, not the latest work from an apparent master. I must confess that until The Flower of Evil, I had never seen a Chabrol. Sounds like a work of art, doesn’t it? I’m sure in France it’s considered as such. I’m an American.

Which is not to say it’s a bad film, but even from Chabrol enthusiasts I’ve been told its one of his weaker efforts. So I don’t feel as bad saying that the film left me cold. I heard some comparisons about the mise en scene of the final shot as the credits rolled. Maybe there was some irony dating back to his earlier films. I saw a bunch of French people deciding to party with a fresh corpse upstairs.

It’s the same corpse (I think) we see in the opening credits, although this is a film so concerned with the past that it stops cold any progress towards the future. The Charpin-Vasseur clan is one of those snooty Frenchy groups that get together at dinner to remark on how much better their food is then America’s. Just let it go already. The son, Francois (Benoit Magimet) has returned from a sabbatical in Chicago and, surprisingly, has a few good things to say about the red, white and blue. The one with the stars.

Matriarch Anne is the politically ambitious one of the family. On her latest campaign, a propaganda pamphlet surfaces connecting her side of the family to a Nazi collaborator and murder. Suspicions that daddy (Bernard Lecoq, playing the worst, most obvious philanderer only noticed by us) might be behind give Francois and his sister, no his cousin, no his sister and his cousin, Michele (Melanie Doutey) to further bond on a weekend excursion to see if the end of Clueless was really feasible.

And that’s about it. There are two potentially intriguing stories (politics and Greg/Marcia pseudo-incest) to hold our attention and each deal with the difficulties and inherent humiliation of their respective actions. And boy do they deal and deal and deal. Francois and Michele do little more than kiss in-between contemplating the consequences of their actions and sharing contempt for their father/stepfather/jackass. (You need a notepad to keep track of this family tree.) At some point we get so frustrated with all the talking, that we only wish they would just get down to business so we can see cutie-petuti-Doutey take it off, which never happens. (Guess I’m just spoiled after Swimming Pool.)

If you’re somehow hypnotized in the name of high art to be intrigued by any of the storylines, then prepare yourself to punch Aunt Line (Suzanne Flon) dead in the face. Cause that’s what she is. She’s the Aunt that everyone loves, except the audience since we have to experience every unaccompanied voices-in-her-head flashback while she stare blankly into the camera. Wake up woman! We’ve already been told everything that’s going on up there. It’s no surprise to us. Go away!

So it was my entry into Chabrol. Whoopti-do! Someone explain to me how its somehow better than Mystic River and you’ll get, at least, one clear example of the term “dead-in-the-face.” From what I gather about French movies – they talk, they eat, occasionally walk around naked a lot, talk some more, kill someone, smoke, naked talking and bitch about Americans. Everyone in The Flower of Evil keeps their clothes on and then eventually throws a party that we’re not allowed to attend. We’re the corpse upstairs.

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originally posted: 10/04/03 07:10:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/06/03 balumuka it sucks 1 stars
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  10-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 20-Apr-2004



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