Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Directed by Francois Ozon and written by Ozon, Marcia Romano, and Annabelle Perrichon with additional contributions by Marina de Van and text inspired by the works of Arthur Rimbaud. Les amants criminels (Criminal Lovers) is the story about two teenagers who kill a young man as they hide in the woods with the body only to encounter a woodsman who kidnaps them and seduces one of them. The film is an exploration into the world of violence as it revolves around death but also sexual identity and manipulation. Starring Natacha Regnier, Jeremie Renier, Miki Manojlovic, and Salim Kechiouche. Les amants criminels is a haunting yet strange film from Francois Ozon.
In the scheme of murders, there always has to be a motive about what to do before and after the murder takes place. In the hands of two teenagers who kill a classmate of theirs after one of them claimed that person raped them. Killing him and the plan to kill him was easy as was burying the body but something would often go wrong in the scheme of things when they lose their back to the car they used to go to the countryside. Upon encountering this mysterious woodsman (Miki Manojlovic), the teens are taken to his cabin as he discovers about what they did as mind games come into play about whether this young woman’s claim about rape is true. Even as it raises questions and actions about what these two young people did.
The screenplay by Francois Ozon and his collaborators does have a unique structure as it is presented in a somewhat non-linear fashion where its narrative moves back and forth from past and present. Notably to establish the motivation of Alice (Natacha Regnier) and her boyfriend Luc (Jeremie Renier) to kill this young man named Said (Salim Kechiouche) by manipulating Luc into taking part in this scheme. Once they’re lost in the forest in a scheme that is similar to Hansel and Gretel, they seek shelter where they meet this woodsman who knows they’re up to trouble but discovers what they did where his action would eventually cause tension between Luc and the more domineering Alice. Even as the story moves back-and-forth from past to present where it reveals what Alice tried to make Luc do where in the present. He starts to ask questions about whether everything Alice had said was true.
Ozon’s direction is quite stylish as he does take cues on films based on serial killers but also had that element of children stories since it does contain references to Hansel and Gretel. There is a weirdness to Ozon’s approach in the story where there is an air of innocence in some aspects of the story but also something that is very offbeat. Even as there’s suggestions that Luc could really be gay as he has gained the attraction of the woodsman. Still, the direction is filled with some startling images such as Said’s murder and scenes to showcase the world of modern-day France with something as more free in the French countryside through some stylish compositions and camera angles. Overall, Ozon creates a very eerie yet off-kilter suspense film that plays to the effects of murder and manipulation.
Cinematographer Pierre Stoeber does nice work with the stylish cinematography that has this air of grain but also very colorful in the way Paris is presented while going for a more heightened look for the scenes in the forest. Editors Claudine Bouche and Dominique Petrot do wonderful work with the editing to play out a sense of rhythm in the film‘s suspense as well as some more low-key cutting in the dramatic moments. Art director Arnaud de Moleron and set decorators Pierre Griffon and Marc Thiebault do terrific work with the look of the woodsman’s dark cabin as well the look of Alice’s room in Paris.
Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does very good work with the costumes as a lot of it is casual for the most part with the exception of the rugged woodsman. Sound editor Benoit Hillebrant does superb work with the sound from the quiet atmosphere of the scenes in the forest to the more raucous world of city life. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi, with additional music by Dave Henson, is a very electronic-based piece that plays up to the sense of energy that occurs in the young characters while the soundtrack consists of classical pieces from Antonio Vivaldi and Richard Wagner.
The casting by Stephane Foenkinos is excellent as it features some noteworthy small performances from Salim Kechiouche as the very slimy yet vain Said as well as a very complex performance from Miki Manojlovic as the woodsman who shows compassion towards Luc while treating Alice with disdain. The performances of Jeremie Renier and Natacha Regnier are brilliant for the way they deal with their actions as well as the trouble they encounter. Notably as Renier brings a naiveté to a young man who seems unsure about what he did while becoming confused over what is happening to him. Regnier has the more interesting role as the mastermind behind the murder as she adds many layers to her performance as a young woman who can be very manipulative but also cunning in her determination.
Les amants criminels is an excellent yet darkly-humorous film from Francois Ozon. Highlighted by the performances of Jeremie Renier and Natacha Regnier, it is a film that showcases Ozon’s talents as a provocateur as well as someone who clearly has a sense of humor when it comes to dark subject matters. In the end, Les amants criminels is a fantastic film from Francois Ozon.
Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - The Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon
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