Skin Of Man, Heart Of Beast

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime, Drama

French director Helene Angel's dark but deftly handled fable about familial violence has a terrifying, fairy-tale atmosphere that's in perfect keeping with its unique point of view. Much of this harrowing story is told from the perspective of an adolescent girl, Christelle (Virginie Guinand), and her five-year-old sister, Aurelie (Cathy Hinderschied). The...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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French director Helene Angel's dark but deftly handled fable about familial violence has a terrifying, fairy-tale atmosphere that's in perfect keeping with its unique point of view. Much of this harrowing story is told from the perspective of an adolescent girl, Christelle (Virginie Guinand), and her five-year-old sister, Aurelie (Cathy Hinderschied). The girls are spending the summer amid the rolling hills of southern France with their grandmother, Marthe (Maaike Jansen), and uncle, Alex (Pascal Cervo), awaiting their mother's return. But instead of Mom, the girls get their estranged and scary dad, Francky (Serge Riaboukine), a Marseilles police inspector whose violent behavior — primarily toward women — has led his supervisor to insist on an enforced vacation. Francky arrives at his mother's house just in time for another unexpected homecoming: His older brother, Coco (Bernard Blancan), who disappeared without a trace 15 years ago, has just as mysteriously reappeared. Wild-eyed and dazed, Coco mumbles something about having served in the Foreign Legion, but Francky, who's still angry about his brother's abrupt departure, doesn't quite believe him. No matter: All is soon forgiven and the Pujol brothers are once again out on the town, whooping it up at the local go-go club owned by Alex's flashy friend, Anthony (Cyril Lecompte), and Anthony's father, Tac Tac (Jean-Louis Richard), and getting into trouble when Francky roughs up one of the girls. But something's not quite right with Coco — he keeps mentioning someone named Ronnie and wakes up at night in a cold sweat, screaming. Christelle senses trouble right away and tries to scare her little sister, who adores her new uncle, with stories involving Coco, cannibalism and murder, unaware that reality is about to best her dreams. The threat of immanent violence hangs heavy over the entire film — a violence that seems to stem from the fate of Pujol pere and, interestingly, France's involvement in Algeria — and the story unfolds with a steadily mounting sense of dread. The denouement is unbearably tense, and when it comes, the violence is just as brutal and sickening as it should be.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: French director Helene Angel's dark but deftly handled fable about familial violence has a terrifying, fairy-tale atmosphere that's in perfect keeping with its unique point of view. Much of this harrowing story is told from the perspective of an adolescent… (more)

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