On paper, French actress-director Marina de Van‘s Ne te retourne pas (Don’t Look Back) looks like a touchdown, ball-spiking and the whole nine. The winning stats: the film’s trifecta of de Van and beautiful, accomplished stars Monica Bellucci (Irreversible, Shoot ‘Em Up) and Sophie Marceau (Braveheart, The World is Not Enough).
Some further explanation: Marina de Van is responsible for the awesomely bizarre In My Skin (2002), a film about a woman’s infatuation with self-mutilation that left me quaking in discomfort; Bellucci is one of the world’s most stunning women even when she’s sleeping in a hooded sweatshirt and some granny-panties (not saying she really does, of course); and Marceau is fetching enough to give Bellucci a run for her scene-stealing money (well, almost).
And then there’s the baffling, grabby plot:
Per IMDB.COM: “Jeanne a writer, married, with two children – starts to see unsettling changes in her home. Her body is beginning to change. No one around her seems to notice. Her family dismisses these fears as the result of the stress of having to finish her next book, but Jeanne realizes that something far deeper, far more disturbing is taking place. A photograph at her mother’s house sends her in search of a woman in Italy. Here, transformed into another woman, RosaMaria, she will discover the strange secret of her true identity.”
A recipe for triumph, right? Don’t Look Back debuted out at the Cannes Film Festival late last week, so the buzz-wheels should start spinning faster and faster now. According to some reviews trickling in from Cannes, however, I shouldn’t set the hope-bar so high just yet. [More after the jump]
From the totally thumbs-down review written by Variety‘s Derek Elley:
“Despite handsome, saturated lensing by Dominique Colin, this tale of a woman who finds her body being taken over by another is floored by clunky dialogue, uninteresting characters and borderline ludicrous drama……Pic generates most of its tension in the early stages, becoming progressively more supine thereafter. Still, the face-morphing sequences are smoothly executed by effects supervisor Krao.”
Here’s a slightly less negative one from Twitch Film’s Todd Brown:
“Ne Te Retourne Pas plays like nothing so much as a genre film intended for people who don’t like genre films. It dabbles in the same pool here where directors like David Lynch have been known to dive right in and, as a result, is less than satisfying for people who actually Do like genre films. The concept of perception versus reality and how that affects identity is a potent one – one that has been tackled with varying degrees of success a number of times before – and with writer-director De Van the concept receives a largely surface treatment. Pretty, well done as far as it goes, but ultimately just an appetizer dressed up as a full meal.”
And, lastly, a disappointed reaction from The AV Club’s Mike D’Angelo:
“This time, however, a traumatic and reductive incident from Marceau/Bellucci’s past is to blame—hence the title—which makes the entire film feel like the laborious setup for a dopey Twilight Zone twist. And where In My Skin was clinically detached and matter-of-fact, Don’t Look Back leans hard on a conventionally atonal musical score and cheap shock cuts, as well as some dubious special effects. (At one point the protagonist’s face is half Marceau and half Bellucci, which was clearly intended to be creepy but made half my audience bust out laughing.) That I can easily imagine an American remake is perhaps most damning of all.”
There’s no doubt that I’ll still see this one the first chance I get, but all of this bash-and-slam going on from the Cannes circuit is more disheartening than an A-list actress posing for Playboy in two-piece bikinis (what’s the point, right?).
Don’t Look Back opens in France on June 3. No date yet for an American release, theatrical or DVD. Before we draw the curtain, though, how about a bonus picture of Monica Bellucci, just for being a great person and reading this entire post? Yeah, I thought so. Thank me later:
AV Club review: Cannes ’09: Day Three