Thursday, October 24, 2013

Généalogies d'un crime (1997) / Genealogies of a Crime

A whimsical and surreal piece of french cinema

Feeling more like a vintage restoration than an original film, this crime drama by the maverick Chilean director Raoul Ruiz (1941–2011) stars Catherine Deneuve in a dual role of a psychologist and an attorney, both caught in a web of crime and deception. 

The movie has a lot going for it: wittiness, precision, and latent wisdom within the script; captivating cinematography; and well seasoned actors. Yet, somehow it falls flat, making the end result less than thrilling (and possibly alienate a few viewers too).

The film begins with a Chinese ghost story about a young man predestined to kill a girl who then, inconveniently, falls in love with his vengeful ghost. Deneuve plays the young Rene's (Melvil Poupaud) psychiatrist aunt. She makes Rene her patient and is later murdered. Next, we see Deneuve as Rene's attorney. She investigates the crime and in the process, becomes enamored with Rene and discovers the many characters involved with the aunt's murder, including a wickedly funny Michel Piccoli as fellow psychiatrist Georges Didier. 

If the viewer believes the narrator, the murder was a perverse version of a therapy session. But Ruiz has no interest in giving the audience any real clues. None of the characters seems less than conniving and duplicitous. This makes for some interesting and witty banter especially between Didier (Piccoli) and his nemesis (Andrzej Seweryn).

The dual climactic sequences within the movie leave the viewer drained before its the eventual conclusion. Still, the presence of Catherine Deneuve and Michel Piccoli, two of Frances greatest actors, a clever- actually way too clever-plot, and alluring cinematography of Paris make this a film that rewards the intelligent filmgoer.


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