Monday, November 2, 2009

The Blood of Others

(Claude Chabrol, 1984)
The great concern of this film is the way love interacts with the inhumane psychological pressures of war. It offers three case studies: Jodie Foster's callow fashion designer joins the resistance in the name of personal love, Michael Ontkean places his convictions above his emotions, and Sam Neill is a Nazi whose crush on Foster ties him in gordian knots. Based on Simone de Beauvoir's novel, and directed by old master Chabrol, it's not for lack of brains that this movie hits the dirt. But if Chabrol can speak English at all, he can't direct it. The entire first hour is impossibly stilted and distant; Foster's refusal to emote generates more frustration than insight, and she sets the tone for the rest of the cast. It's a relief when Neill finally shows up, because he's not so on guard against melodrama; but by then he has to cram his broad character arc into such a small handful of scenes that he ultimately fares little better. Even the reasonably tense third-act suspense sequences fail, because they don't advance Foster's character; if she's progressed beyond romantic self-interest by then she's keeping it to herself, and she's pretty much along for the ride in the climactic jail break. Lots of small moments and nuances that never add up to anything are crammed between loving shots of expensive set design and the kind of gratuitous cameos (Kate Reid, John Vernon) that signal the worst kind of international coproduction - too many cooks in the kitchen.

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