Soft Shell Man

Soft Shell Man

****

Reviewed by: Gabriella Trybalska

There is something unnerving about Soft Shell Man, or Crab in the Head, as its original title translates. The long unwielding shots of the protagonist Alex (David La Haye), diving into the Indian Ocean in almost complete darkness is more that responsible for a disturbing tone that is present throughout, like the shots of his eyeball constantly flickering and scenes where a crab appears to be crawling around a human brain.

The film begins with Alex's quest to take photographs of the ocean, which is cut short when he has an accident and ends up in a decompression chamber. From here, he travels home to Montreal, where his agent resolves to exhibit his latest work. Alex cannot remember what pictures he took, because of the memory loss he suffered during the accident.

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While at home, he embarks on a romance with journalist Marie (Isabelle Blais), which ends after she discovers that he is married. From there, he has a fling with his best friend's girl (Chantal Giroux) and things take a turn for the worse, as the theme of his new exhibition is revealed.

La Haye is captivating as Alex. He has the archetypal rugged looks and chiselled jaw that has become expected of French leading men and yet manages to appear completely different in almost every scene, from his drug delivery moment to playing chess with Marie's mother. Also worthy of mention is the entire cast, who are superb, from Giroux's deaf Sara to Emmanuel Bilodeau's betrayed best friend Sam.

Andre Turpin, directing his first selp-penned feature, has created an absorbing film, which will easily captivate a willing audience. It has a disturbed feel to it, despite being littered with comic incidents, and a tendency to slip into English, which may confuse those who are expecting to see a foreign language movie.

The French title, Un Crabe Dans La Tete, is more explicit than Soft Shell Man, as the ending finds a crab falling out of Alex's diving head gear. The originality of Turpin's work may go unnoticed by a mainstream British audience. Hopefully not.

For those who like quirky, slightly strange French films, this is a must!

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2002
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A man returns home after an accident in the Indian Ocean to see his photographs in a new exhibit.

Director: Andre Turpin

Writer: Andre Turpin

Starring: David La Haye, Isabelle Blais, Emmanuel Bilodeau, Chantel Giroux, Pascale Desrochers

Year: 2001

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Canada

Festivals:

EIFF 2002

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