Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mulling Rouge: "The Red Dwarf" (1999)

Watching this film is a lot like watching a David Lynch film, but without the "Hey, look at me! I'm doing weird stuff here!" attitude that ruined "Wild at Heart," "Lost Highway," and the "Twin Peaks" theatrical film.

Jean-Yves Thual is Lucien, a dwarf who works at a law firm. His job is to write incriminating letters to divorcing spouses in order to break up their marriages. He meets little Dyna Gauzy, who is Isis, a child trapeze artist in a local traveling circus. They become friends, as Isis sees Lucien as her guardian angel and not a freak of nature. Lucien also meets Paola, played by '60's sexpot Anita Ekberg (who has REALLY let herself go). Paola and Lucien start sleeping together, and Lucien falls in love with her, ignoring Isis after a while. Eventually Paola and her husband, the goofy Bob, get back together. In the films creepiest scene, Lucien, wearing some of Paola's makeup and a wig, strangles his lover to death and blames it on Bob, who has fled the country.

Between the sex and the murder, Lucien now has a new found confidence that eventually gets him in trouble at work. Lucien quits, and does something on his boss' desk that we all have wanted to do to our employers at one point or another.

Lucien joins Isis' circus, but Bob shows up. He is on the run, and he and Lucien become friends and perform together as clowns. Isis is jealous, and has some very touching scenes sobbing as the crowd doubles over at Lucien and Bob. Lucien and Isis do team up for an act, and this leads to the final ambiguous ending, with director Le Moine leaving us wanting more.

This is a weird film full of weird scenes: Lucien's clandestine bath at Ekberg's house, the smoking cab driver, the law office run more like a cruel boarding school, and the circus performances.

I compare this favorably to early David Lynch films like the idiotic "Eraserhead" and the incredible "The Elephant Man." Le Moine shoots in black and white, which brings out a bleakness that adds to the French locales. The entire cast is great, professionally playing parts that must have read as impossible on paper. Le Moine draws you into this bizarre vision of his, and uses his camera to uncover things as opposed to being hit over the head with plot points every ten minutes.

Jean-Yves Thual is brave as Lucien, he has a revealing nude scene, love scenes, and yet he is someone you want to succeed (except for that small matter of murder). He looks a little like a miniature version of Christopher Reeve, and holds his own against this cast.

The film is French language with excellent, readable English subtitles. If you fancy yourself a patron of the bizarre, you must rent this film. I highly recommend it. (* * * * *) out of five stars.