La Peau Blanche


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

At first, the title holds sway.

"Pale white skin makes me vomit," Thierry, the diffident country boy and McGill Eng Lit student, who looks like John Simm, says to Henri (Frederic Pierre), his black flatmate, after a frightening experience with two hookers.

Actually, what he hates most are redheads.

Thierry's prejudice is never adequately explained. He likes to be around black people, doesn't have any white friends, is scared he'll miss his grades and have to leave Montreal. Henri and his crowd are more vocal and energetic. There's an anger and defensive aggression about them because they, not Thierry, are caught in a spiral of racial intimidation.

And then the film changes direction and snow begins to fall. Thierry, who appears so shy with girls, falls for a flutist in a busker band. Her name is Claire (Marianne Farley) and she has porcelain white skin. What is worse, her hair resembles the russet hue of a maned wolf.

There is something about this girl that feels dangerous. She performs in bed with animal intensity and yet withdraws afterwards. She doesn't want to be loved, as if afraid of her nature. Is this the black widow syndrome? Or something insatiable, like Dracula's curse?

The film dabbles in genres. As Claire's condition becomes more apparent, her presence in Thierry's life forces Henri to move out and the plot leaps fully naked into a late night shocker slot, where baths become abattoirs and human flesh is back on the menu.

It is to co-writer/director Daniel Roby's credit and the audience's ability to empathise with Thierry (a sensitively judged performance from Marc Paquet) that the whole thing doesn't disintegrate into a melodramatic mess.

Although the ending harks back to a certain Roman Polanski film and cuts off inconclusively, La Peau Blanche is yet another example of the French Canadian spirit of adventure.

To travel without maps is better than staying at home with a fluffy rabbit.

Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2005
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A Montreal student has a dangerous liaison with a redheaded flutist with an odd pedigree.

Director: Daniel Roby

Writer: Joel Champetier, Daniel Roby

Starring: Marc Paquet, Marianne Farley, Frederic Pierre, Jessica Malka, Julie LeBreton, Lise Roy, Joujou Tureme, Raymond Cloutier

Year: 2004

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada


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