Friday 10 June 2016
I Love Lucid
France 2014 Directed by Romain Basset
Paramount Blu Ray
Well this is certainly an interesting little movie experience. It’s not the most entertaining film I’ve seen this week but it does have moments that hold the interest and visual images which turn the head. That being said, there’s good and bad as far as Horsehead goes and ultimately I feel that, by the journey’s end, the film doesn’t really add up to the sum of its parts.
So, the good hits you right from the start where the snorts of the ‘character’ from which the film takes it’s title, is first glimpsed. A girl who we identify as the films main protagonist, Jessica, played with a certain amount of presence by Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux, is unable to move on a bed while the twisted fingers and head of an upright standing horse creature in a suit peaks around the curtains at her before impaling her with metal... we then come to understand that this is a dream that Jessica is having, followed swiftly but the news that her grandmother has passed away and that she is urged by her mother to return home for a while, as a result of this.
We see her take a train and it’s here that I first noticed how well the film was shot. The main protagonist is always dreaming in this movie... quite deliberately... as her experiments in lucid dreaming are something she uses to get her closer to the truth of a situation. Even when the main character is not experiencing a dream state, however, the photography manages to both capture a dream-like quality to the reality around her while at the same time bringing everything into sharp contrast... on this blu ray I could literally focus on the texture of the knitwear of the top she is wearing in this opening sequence, for instance.
When she gets home she is ambivalently greeted by her mother, played by Catriona MacColl (who some of my regular readers may recognise for her association with some of Lucio Fulci’s better movies) and happily welcomed by her step-dad Murray Head. The same Murray Head who played/sang Judas on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original concept album Jesus Christ Superstar... which was, of course, turned into a stage musical very soon after. In her room next to her dead grandmother, and also when she’s in the bath, she goes through a series of dreams coupled with illness in a film that reminded me, just a little bit, of Dario Argento’s Suspiria in some places. There is a certain sense of surrealism present in the dream scenes and the movie becomes, quite quickly, more and more about the pursuit of these sections as Jessica tries to unravel the mysteries of her family’s past while ascertaining her own place in the chain of events that has guided her to this point.
Unfortunately, there’s bad stuff in this movie too in that things are set up without necessarily giving you any answers or, as in the case of this script in places, clumsily. For instance the writer/director feels the need to point out in the script that the lights in the upstairs “keep going”... so that the main protagonist can carry around a torch while exploring the dark areas conducive to a sense of lurking dread found in cinema such as this. The line when her step father gives her the torch is quite literally “... you’re going to need this... a lot of the light bulbs have gone up there.” Why not just replace them, then? It seems a cliché which was best left unsaid rather tham raising it to a level at which the viewer would be conscious of it, it seems to me.
There is also a bad moment, very soon after this line is uttered, when the torch comes into play and we are unfortunately treated to a bounce back reflection of the light glancing back from the camera lens. However, the clumsy line and the technical error do at least add as a distraction because, immediately following the bounceback, there is a moment where Jessica switches on the light in a room and it fails about half a second later. In that brief burst of light we are able to make out her dead grandmother standing directly behind her. It’s a nice moment but, alas, while the surprise is total because you are still reeling from the technical error, the impact of that moment is perhaps a little diminished. Still... nice try, I think.
The film is beautifully shot and the night time sequences especially, which make up the majority of the movie, are nicely put together in rich reds and warm oranges pitched against the obligatory darkness of each frame. Other visual tropes and clichés of the horror film abound such as ‘the creepy childhood teddy bear’, mini rocking horses and a metronome which Jessica uses as an aid (along with some ether in some scenes) to enter a dream state. Of course, the director also uses this to highlight the difference between dreaming and wakefulness at one point because the way the film is put together, it does get kinda hard to distinguish between the two as the running time drifts on.
The film is ultimately a surreal trip through a dreamland with those sleeping fantasies seeming to have some connection to the main protagonist’s past. However, while strong hints are given as to what might be going on, the film doesn’t resolve that much for the audience and, although it has a brilliant last, haunting shot to leave you with, it really doesn’t give much guidance as to everything that’s been going on. A lot of it is ‘fill in the blanks’ and, although I could do that fairly easily, I suspect that each audience member might walk away with a slightly different interpretation of what those blanks might be.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and it’s the kind of ambiguity I usually like to embrace in movie making but, for all its rich visuals, slick editing, exciting mise en scene and engaging performances, I did find the film just a little dull in places. Also, the insistence and perseverance that the main character has that her dreams can solve the riddle of her birth and the physical and supernaturally tangible manifestation of the things that go bump in her id do kind of set the film up for a bit of a fail at the end of the movie, when the personal quest takes a strange turn, I feel. Ultimately, it’s a nice little film that has some truly gorgeous sequences but, alas, promises more than it delivers, not least of which is the identity or symbolism of the horse headed title character. I got bored during this one, which is kind of rare for me. I would still recommend Horsehead to fellow fans of horror and surrealism because some of the images are quite odd and worthy of a quick look. I probably won’t be rewatching this anytime soon, however.