Thursday, May 21, 2015

L'Amour Braque (Andrzej Żuławski, 1985)

There's a scene that occurs midway through Andrzej Żuławski's L'Amour Braque that is the key to judging whether or not this film is a success. Personally, I thought the scene where Sophie Marceau rips the crotch of her tan pantyhose to help the trajectory of Tchéky Karyo's erect, vagina-bound penis was all I needed to deem this film a success. However, in order for this come off a real movie review, I need to allude something that is not perversion-based. And since it's tradition for me to type words that pertain to the insanity of the characters whenever I write about the films of Andrzej Żuławski (this is my fourth), I think opening with a bit about madness is only fitting. Anyway, as I was saying, when Francis Huster falls to the ground shouting incoherent nonsense at the top of his lungs at around the midway point, I... Wait, I think every scene in this movie either begins or ends with Francis Huster falling to the ground shouting incoherent nonsense at the top of his lungs. Be that as it may, the fact that none of the people who were walking by as Francis Huster engaged in a full-body conniption fit took notice of him put my mind at ease. The reason it did so is quite simple, everyone who appears in an Andrzej Żuławski film must be on the same wavelength as the director. The second someone comes off as shocked or appalled by what is transpiring in front of them, is the moment I get taken out of the movie.

Thankfully, everyone is completely on board. Meaning, good luck finding a voice of reason in this two-toed clusterfuck of a romantic comedy. Yep, you heard me, romantic comedy.

I know this goes against everything I just said, but I would have loved to have seen a character ask a simple question. You know, something like: Do you know what time it is? Imagine how Tchéky Karyo or Francis Huster would have reacted to a question like that? I can just picture Tchéky holding this person down (while screaming incoherent nonsense at the top of his lungs) as Francis proceeded to eat escargot from their quivering butt-hole.

(It can't be that absurd, can it?) Oh, trust me, it can. No one acts like a normal human being in this movie. Of course, I don't mean to imply that using the outer layer of someone's anus as an escargot bowl is abnormal. But you got to admit, it's highly irregular, especially when you factor in the sheer amount of non-rectal tableware that was available in France during the 1980s (they don't call it the dish and plate decade for nothing).

If I was at screening of this film and Andrzej Żuławski was on hand to do a Q and A afterward, I wouldn't ask a goddamn thing. Actually, that's not entirely true. If I was able to communicate via telepathy (using your mouth to express ideas is for saps), I think I would ask him if Brian de Palma's Scarface was an inspiration. I know, it clearly states that Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot was the inspiration for this film. It's just that some of the action scenes had a Scarface feel to them.

Yeah, that's right, I said, action scenes. So, let's recap: It would seem that Andrzej Żuławski has directed an absurdist romantic comedy/action movie that was inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot.

At any rate, like I was saying, there's plenty of action in this film. We're talking car chases, we're talking shoot outs, we're talking bank robberies.

Opening with a bank robbery involving four jumpsuit-wearing thieves in Disney masks, L'Amour Braque establishes right away that this is going to be a film that plays by its own rules. Oh, sure, it looks like a bank is being robbed (a common occurrence in action/crime cinema), but the way it's executed is unlike any bank robbery I've ever seen.

Hopping aboard a train, the gang, lead by Micky (Tchéky Karyo), seem to be making a clean getaway, when all of a sudden, the police arrive. Luckily, Tchéky and the gang are able to thwart the authorities with the help of Léon (Francis Huster), a dim Hungarian émigré.

Seeing him as a sort of good luck charm, Micky takes Léon under his wing and proceeds to show him how Parisian criminals unwind. Part of the unwinding process involves introducing him to Mary (Sophie Marceau), his gorgeous Parisian girlfriend. I don't think I have to tell you what happens next.

Actually, even if I did have to tell to you, I don't think I would want to. First of all, while the story is pretty straight-forward gangster stuff, as with the bank heist scene, the way it plays out is nothing but... straight-forward. Careening from one scene to another in a nonsensical fashion, the film will severely test the patience of those who are accustomed to hearing dialogue that makes a modicum of sense.

Now, unlike the characters in Andrzej Żuławski's Possession and Szamanka, these people are not mentally-ill. They simply express themselves in a manner that is somewhat unorthodox. (Somewhat?) Okay, they do so in a manner that is extremely unorthodox. So much so, I don't think I understood a single thing any of the characters said in this movie. Granted, I was familiar with the words they were saying. It's just that the manner they were arranged was so baffling.

Let's just say, people who pretend to be smart for a living will eat this shit up. As for the rest of us–you know, those who are painfully aware of their own brain deficiencies–we will have to find alternative ways to navigate this film's pompous ass-enabling mind-field. And the best way I discovered to do so is to relish in the film's visual bouquet.

My favourite example of this "visual bouquet" occurs when we see a group of Dick Tracy-esque hoods strutting down the middle of a neon lit street near the famous Folies Bergère. Looking like a scene lifted straight from the pages of a sleazy comic book, the cartoonish energy of this scene flies in the face of the film's art-house temperament. Hold up, forget about flying in the face of, the two styles actually complement one another.

If cartoon violence and neon lighting isn't your thing, you could simply sit back and bask in the beauty that is Sophie Marceau. If you're not into brunettes, you could always bask in Christiane Jean, who plays... to be honest, I have no idea who she plays. Either way, Jess Franco fans will recognize her from Faceless. In conclusion, out of the handful of Andrzej Żuławski film I've seen so far, I would have to say L'Amour Braque is the most challenging.

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