This creepy and cryptic early film from director Arnaud Desplechin isn't as assured as his MY SEX LIFE... (OR HOW I GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT), but it has its own intriguing charms. Though of French extraction, Mathias Barillet (Emmanuel Salinger), who bears
more than a passing resemblance to a young Peter Lorre, has grown up in Germany, where his diplomat father (now deceased) was posted. Now a medical student en route to Paris, he's harassed and interrogated at the border by French customs officials, especially one corpulent and incoherent man who searches his luggage, then allowed to go. Once at his Paris hotel, Mathias finds that someone has slipped a mummified head into his suitcase. As a student of forensic pathology, Mathias is able to dissect the head, analyze it and otherwise fetishize this object, which some murky government officials a few of them old acquaitances of Mathias and his sister Marie (Marianne Denicourt) are after. The wonderfully bug-eyed Salinger oozes perturbation from every pore, and his encounters with Marie, his fellow students, his brutish roommate William (Bruno Todeschini) and a potential girlfriend (Emmanuelle Devos) are beautiful studies in emotional interaction freighted with pain. Mathias' investigations uncover among his sister's circle of friends a ring of smugglers who ferry Russian scientists and engineers to lucrative foreign assignments; he also discovers that William is spying on him. But the movie's apparent thriller plot line, for all its entertaining skullduggery, really is extraneous: What matters are the beautifully realized moments between the characters. Desplechin's meditations on the post-1989 European condition are a bit undigested, which isn't to say they aren't prescient: Although the national barriers
he uses as metaphors have been largely obliterated, there remains a lingering malaise. But his great talent is his ability to show the exquisite ways people feel uncomfortable around each other.
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: This creepy and cryptic early film from director Arnaud Desplechin isn't as assured as his MY SEX LIFE... (OR HOW I GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT), but it has its own intriguing charms. Though of French extraction, Mathias Barillet (Emmanuel Salinger), who bears… (more)