Last Screening

Last Screening


Reviewed by: Jeff Robson

It's often been said that we cinephiles have a touch of madness in our obsession with projected images of other people’s lives. And I certainly think there’s a great film to be made about the dangers that can arise when the lines between celluloid fantasy and messy, disappointing reality become blurred. Unfortunately, this definitely isn’t it.

Archard’s second feature (his debut, Demented, was a hit at the 2006 LFF) sets out with a promising premise – a young man brought up on films from the Golden Age of French cinema by his domineering mother finds the real world too much for him and sublimates his feelings of inadequacy towards women (and their failure to be as perfect as his idealised, idolised screen goddesses) by killing them. But he seems to have no idea of how to turn it into a believable, compelling story.

Copy picture

His protagonist Sylvain (Pascal Cervo) is the manager of a tiny fleapit in a nondescript French town. The owner is keen to sell it for redevelopment but that would mean Sylvain losing the one thing that gives his life some meaning – not to mention the flat/shrine to his mother he’s built in the basement. The patrons regard him as a harmless dreamer – but by night he preys on prostitutes, female cab drivers and any women unlucky enough to be out alone, dispatching them brutally and returning to his den with grisly trophies.

He takes few pains to cover his tracks, and it soon becomes clear that his world is about to fall apart. The catalyst is a young actress (Charlotte Van Kemmell), who shares his love of cinema and is the first woman to spark deeper feelings in him. But his guilt over the traumatic death of his mother (Karole Rocher) is overpowering, fuelling the murderous urge that still needs to be fulfilled...

The story could have worked as either a low-key, unsettling study of trauma in the mould of Michael Powell’s classic Peeping Tom, or a no-holds-barred Da Palmaesque melodrama. But Archard simply depicts one slaying after another with a flat, uninspired monotony that makes a relatively short running time seem an eternity. Apart from a few flashbacks that outline Sylvain’s psychosis in a Freud For Dummies manner there’s no sense of the character’s background or place within the community to give the viewer any sense of empathy or reality.

And this simply leads one to ponder the many, many holes in the plot. If there are any police in Sylvain’s town, they seem to have reacted to women being murdered on a nightly basis with a Gallic shrug. And the heroine thinks nothing in such a climate of befriending a lonely, intense young man and giving him the entry code to her flat on the first date.

Scenes go on for ever, or end abruptly and characters are introduced and forgotten about only to reappear for no apparent reason. The implausibilities pile up to a ludicrous extent and by the time the climax arrived I’m afraid I’d ceased to care what happened to any of them.

The point that psychopaths are usually inadequate nonentities rather than charismatic Hannibal Lecter-style geniuses manqué is a valid one and the murders have a clumsy, almost detached feel that rings true. But dishing out as many on-screen killings as any slasher movie with a vaguely arthouse sheen to the storyline strikes me as a case of having your organic carrot cake and eating it.

The cast all give it their best – particularly Morel as the ageing cinephile enthusiastically trading movie quotes with Sylvain – and Archard brings out the slightly spooky undertone of melancholia in even the most exuberant films of the French Golden Age ) Umbrellas Of Cherbourg and Renoir’s French Cancan are key reference points) to good effect.

There’s enough talent on display to suggest eh may progress. But in setting out to make ‘Cinema Paradiso Meets Psycho’ he set the bar very high. And any of the old masters he so obviously reveres would have told him that there’s nothing worse in cinema than a good tale told badly.

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2011
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The projectionist of a small-town French cinema leads a murderous double life.
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Director: Laurent Achard

Writer: Laurent Achard, Frdrique Moreau

Starring: Pascal Cervo, Charlotte Van Kemmel, Karole Rocher, Austin Morel, Brigitte Sy

Year: 2011

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: France

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