Whenever a creative duo splits, I am instantly curious as to how well they fare on their own. Being a big fan of Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, I was initially kind of bummed that Jeunet went off on his own, but with the exception of Alien Resurrection (which isn’t THAT bad, just not up to par), he has proven to be a capable filmmaker (still bummed that Very Long Engagement failed to reach the same level of success as Amelie). However, Marc Caro had been MIA, so when I saw he had made his own film, Dante 01, I was pretty excited.
That excitement was dulled, however, once I got twenty minutes into the film and realized I wasn’t engaged at all by what was on the screen. After another 20 minutes I realized I didn’t UNDERSTAND what exactly was happening, and by the hour mark I was merely just sort of looking at the movie, not even bothering to try to make sense of it.
One problem, perhaps the biggest, is that the entire cast is made up of bald dudes in ugly brown jumpsuits. It’s a dark movie by design (made darker by a poor projection on DVD), so any scene where 3-4 of the guys are running around stabbing each other or whatever is completely incoherent. The only two guys I can single out are Lambert Wilson (in a nearly mute starring role as a Jesus incarnate) and Dominique Pinon, who as usual is terrific and fun to watch. I’m not sure why Caro would choose the spaceship movie route after seeing what happened to Jeunet on Alien, but I’m glad he convinced Pinon to don the spacesuit and stand in front of greenscreens again (Pinon even has another underwater scene!).
It’s also a movie that lacks any sort of drive. We are told that everyone on the ship is going to die, but from what is beyond me. Something about the ship colliding with a planet or whatever? It’s hard to get really pumped about such a scenario when the film itself doesn’t seem to be too concerned about it – the only tension in the film stems from the characters fighting with one another. If anything, the movie is like an episode of Aeon Flux, with the same thing just happening over and over: Lambert sees an orange squid/alien thing inside someone, he sucks it out, pukes and screams, some bald dudes run around and fight, other bald dudes watching them from a control room say things like “it worked!”, and then the whole sequence starts all over again. The final act mixes things up a bit, but it suffers from complete incoherency, and the final scene seems randomly swiped from 2001, not THIS film’s logical conclusion.
So I dunno, it’s not for me, but certainly some folks dug it, and I can see it being a minor cult classic among fans of French horror. It would make a hell of a Blu-Ray (since it’s so dark, the improved contrast range Blu offers is practically a necessity), and if it had commentary (or even a shooting script) on the disc I would be first in line to pick it up at Best Buy. I have a feeling that it could be like Southland Tales, in which once you accept it for what it is (and what it isn’t) and are provided with some background info that isn’t in the film (apparently their budget was cut in half halfway through production), it would actually be something I enjoy. For now though – life’s too short to subject myself to confusion for 90 straight minutes. At least Southland has a good soundtrack to make up for its narrative woes.