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Theatre, Music, etc.
EVENINGS OUT

 


April 20. 2012

Evenings Out

An odd, French take on the serial killer drama

Every once in a while, a film comes along that makes it almost impossible to decide what to think about it. Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s American Translation, out this week from TLA Releasing, is one such film.

Equal parts Bonnie and Clyde and François Ozon’s Criminal Lovers, with just a soupçon of Silence of the Lambs thrown in for good measure, the film is a little of this, a little of that. Which is not to say that it is not enjoyable, it’s just . . . odd. Odd in that inexplicable way only a French film can be really odd.

Pierre Perrier plays Chris, a young drifter who meets Aurore (Lizzie Brocheré), the daughter of a wealthy American businessman. The two fall in love immediately, and marry soon after. Only after taking this precipitous step, however, does Aurore discover Chris’ secret: He’s a serial killer.

Chris realized at a young age that he is bisexual, but he is also a sadist. Not a “safe, sane, consensual” type of sadist, unfortunately, but the kind who gets his jollies from beating people. He decides after his one instance of hitting a woman that he will not do that again, but hitting his male partners does not quite “do it” for him, so it escalates to murder. And more murder.

Like some dementedly eager puppy, Chris is only too happy to let Aurore in on his secret, and her desire to rebel against her perfect life makes her similarly eager to join him in his bizarre journey. She tries to temper his desires, joining him in a threesome with another man, but Chris’ jealous nature does not allow him to readily share his new bride, and he sends the man away after their first tryst so that he does not give in to the urge to kill him.

For the sake of drama, events spiral out of control, and lead to a rather mellow climax. It is, after all, a French film, as mentioned before. Were it an American film, Chris would have turned into a werewolf (not beyond belief, given his predatory mien), or Lizzie would become a black widow, killing Chris and becoming a serial killer herself. Since it is not an American film, none of this happens.

The directors claim in written notes at the end of the film to have put the story together based on an amalgamation of testimony and confessions of a number of different serial killers. If they did this to imbue the film with a deeper meaning, they might have fallen short of the mark. What they succeeded at was putting out an interesting little film with an attractive cast. Brocheré and Perrier are both very good-looking, and it is doubtful many would turn Chris’ tricks away without regretting it later.

The earlier comparison to Silence of the Lambs lies in the seeming pathologization of bisexuality. It seems like there is an equation of bisexuality with being a serial killer, as those protesting Silence of the Lambs claimed that the 1991 film did with transsexuals (even though Hannibal Lecter specifically said that Buffalo Bill was not a true transsexual). Of course, the other bisexual and gay characters in the film do not run around killing people, so Chris is an exception. But the accusation could be made that the film seems to equate the two.

Despite that, the film is enjoyable. It is unlikely to make the list of most influential films of the 21st century, but it’s a good way to kill a couple of hours.

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