Les Amants Criminels 1999
Les Amants Criminels 199
1h 36min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 18 August 1999 (France)
After a perverted impulse drives them to kill, Alice and her boyfriend, Luc, drag the body into the woods, only to find themselves hopelessly lost – much like the fairy-tale plight of Hansel and Gretel. Starving and with no hope of being found, they chance upon a dilapidated cottage where a hulking man takes them prisoner and proceeds to feed Luc’s sexual appetite.
I like François Ozon. Or at least, I like the idea of François Ozon. I like his challenge to bourgeois morality in Sitcom – I like his attempt to integrate this challenge into a technically limiting format. However, when it comes to committing his ideas to celluloid, I don’t think that Ozon’s ideas quite work. Be it in his shorts for Gay Majorettes in Space or See the Sea, his pieces always come off as half-arsed, as if they’d been good ideas in his head but not on film. Les Amants Criminels/Criminal Lovers goes half way to resolving this problem. In it, we see three rather brilliant leading performances, from Natacha Régnier (La Vie Rêvée des Anges) and Jérémie Renier as the two amants and an utterly remarkable (and disturbing) one from Miki Manojlovic (Underground) as the man who traps them in the forest. Hence, the film has been described as twisted Hansel and Gretel, and that it certainly is. Whether or not it was Ozon’s intention to write a modern-day fairy tale (or whether or not this comparison/allusion is important) is not clear. However, what is clear is that, on some level, he finds this funny. Therefore, the whole thing rests, to a certain extent, upon whether you share Ozon’s sense of humour (remember, in Sitcom we had a rat providing the apparatus for Ozon’s exposition of middle-class morés, thus introducing S&M and masturbation to the sitcom genre … and thus attacking his whole sitcom allusion with it). I found myself laughing … nervously, maybe, but I found it very, very funny. Chilling? Not particularly. Unsympathetic? Certainly – in fact, Regnier’s character is brilliantly drawn as both repugnant and seductive. But this is also my main problem with the film, because, while it is very clever, with a great use of music and some lovely visual touches, on a human, psychological level, Ozon’s film doesn’t rise above the insight afforded to us by an average TV movie-of-the-week. Yes, the oppositions of the characters are clearly defined, but they’re clearly defined in tabloid black-and-white. Alice may well represent the ‘other’ of Luc, but we are never invited to speculate (although speculate is all that we can do, given the lack of information). Luc is seduced; Alice is a neo-noir anti-heroine. But that’s as far as it goes, and that’s why ‘Les Amants Criminels’ can be no more than an interesting sideline, a piece of fluff, rather than anything more profound. Nevertheless, Ozon shows considerable visual flair, and great talent for a certain tension, and he always has that pretty sick sense of humour to fall back on should everything else fail.
Director: François Ozon
Writers: François Ozon (scenario and dialogue), Marcia Romano (scenario interventions)
Stars: Natacha Régnier, Jérémie Renier, Predrag ‘Miki’ Manojlovic