Sombre (1998)

Dir. Phillipe Grandrieux
Starring: Marc Barbe, Elina Lowensohn, etc.

I wouldn’t recommend this to Joel, Jill, Larri and Don. I’m not sure about the remaining idiots, but I think Penny and Kevin have the best chance of liking this. This is another 1001 film pick, and I think it’s an interesting film, although I probably wouldn’t have chosen this film.

The film is about a Jean (Barbe) who goes out with kills prostitutes. One day, Jean meets a woman, Claire (Lowensohn), whose having car trouble. Jean offers her a ride and he eventually meets Claire and her sister. Jean is an attractive and they eventually goes on a trip with the two sisters. During the trip, Claire accidently finds Jean with two prostitutes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to really breakdown the film, so what follows will be obeservations, questions and notes on the film.

There are elements in the film that I’m unclear about, most notably the significance of the Tour de France. The film ends with a long shot of all the spectators sitting along a country roadside waiting for the cyclists to pass. I’m also not sure about the significance of the fact that Jean is a puppeteer. There’s a cool scene where we seen the kids in the audience screaming out of fright from watching the puppet show, which involves a wolf. I wonder about the significance of the scene where Jean catches Claire snooping in his stuff. He finds Claire wearing the wolf costume. This kind of seemingly tangential scenes remind me of Michael Haneke films
I liked the editing of the film, jumping through time and some of the cinematography, which again reminds me of Haneke.
The film starts out like a horror suspense (I actually thought it was going to be like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which I hated.), but in the end I think it’s an art film mainly about the differences between men and women, particularly the approach to sexuality. I thought of L’Avventura in a way that men and women are drawn together on one hand, but are often alienated from each other at the same time. Jean as the sexual deviant killer is not so much as a character as a symbol of the male condition, namely that men are dogs. They’re driven by physical lust with violence intertwined within this. They don’t understand this drive and the more humane ones are deeply troubled by it. For some reason I bought the idea that Claire is moved–and maybe sexually unfrozen by Jean’s carnality (in the scene where he begins to rape Claire and her sister). Well, that’s not really the scene that I “liked.” The scene later when Claire and Jean actually have intercourse–something Jean is never did with his previous victims, something he seems unable to do until Claire, who reaches out toward him with love and tenderness, despite his bestial nature, reaches out towards him. Even though they have intercourse, Jean runs from Claire, perhaps because he does care for her, but he knows he won’t be able to stop himself from hurting her. There’s a final scene of Claire when someone is talking to her, and I can’t remember what the person was saying. (I might have to go get this again to figure that out.) And we see Jean killing someone else, and then being alone. Finally, the last scene is of the Tour de France spectactors that I mentioned earlier. Again, I have no idea what that means.
There’s an allusion to Beauty and the Beast I think. Jean is a beast on the inside (good looking on the outside). And Claire is the beauty that tries to save him but can’t.

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