maudelynn (maudelynn) wrote in victorianplots,

a wonderful review of Vidocq by lordruthven

Earlier tonight I was over at a friend's house and he showed me a bootleg copy of a French movie titled "Vidocq." It was loosely inspired by a real-life criminal who became a detective in 19th century Paris; however, this movie bore about as much resemblance to the real Vidocq as, say Thomas Wheeler's "The Arcanum" does to Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. In short, a legendary real-life person was made the hero of an ass-kicking extravaganza.

Looking around online, I see that "Vidocq" got a mixed to negative reception due to it's style over substance flair. The version of the film I saw was in French with no subtitles, and neither me nor my friend who showed it knows French, so I can't comment on the dialogue. However, the movie had such great visual flair that I could mostly follow it - which might support claims that it was style over substance.

The movie opens with Vidocq (played by Gerard Depardieu) fighting a mysterious ass-kicking machine named the Alchemist. The Alchemist is tricked out with a golden mask that has a reflective surface and a billowing black cloak. Even the way the Alchemist walks is cool; he moves around with a rolling effect that is reminiscent of a martial arts trained whirling dervish. After a fight, Vidocq sees the true face of the Alchemist (though the audience doesn't) and apparently falls to his death down what looks like a well with fire in it.

After the opening credits, the film picks up with a man who is seeking the truth behind Vidocq's encounter with the Alchemist. The Alchemist has an array of supernatural powers, all tied somehow to the mirror mask he wears. In addition, he is murdering people and kidnapping young girls in order to steal their souls for his own power. Oh yeah, he has also devised a way to make people spontaneously combust. As the man researching Vidocq talks to people, we are shown sequences of Vidocq in action as he trails down the Alchemist, up unto the fateful encounter. Then there is a genuine surprise that I thought was cool.

Did I mention that all of this takes place in 19th century Paris? I am a sucker for horror films set in the 19th century, and Paris was an interesting change of pace from the familiar London. We get to follow characters wearing top hats and overcoats through a decadent world of seedy back alleys, brothels, and other places they don't tell you about in school. The director has a very interesting visual style that was reminiscent of such Derek Classics as "Sleepy Hollow," "From Hell," and "Brotherhood of the Wolf."

The action scenes were excellent, especially anytime the Alchemist showed up to obliterate things. I hate to say that the action had a "Matrix" feel to it, but that is what I was reminded of...but not in a ripped-off way. The acting was pretty good, especially since I didn't understand any of the lines.

Now here is the rub - the director's name is Pitof, and he's the guy who unleashed last year's "Catwoman" movie on the world. I hate to admit it but I now want to see the "Catwoman" movie just for the visual flair alone. Nothing is going to make me accept that horrendous costume Berry is wearing, but maybe everything happening around her might look kinda cool. I get the feeling that this guy was new to America so the studio stuck him on a project that was questionable to begin with. I hope ol' Pitof bounces back, because the man's style is certainly worth checking out.

So I am going to recommend "Vidocq" to people who already like the kinds of movies I enjoy - flashy, gothic period pieces with loads of anachronisms. I personally loved the hell out of it and am hoping that it gets an official U.S. release soon.
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