Criminal Lovers

1999, Movie, NR, 90 mins


Inspired by an actual crime but rendered in the heightened style of a dark fairy tale, this haunting film puts a fresh and creepy spin on that staple of noir crime pictures, from THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT to NATURAL BORN KILLERS: the lawless young couple on the run. High school temptress Alice (Natache Reigner) is in thrall to a fantasy. Sexually insecure Luc (Jeremie Renier) is in thrall to Alice. This already combustible combination — easily influenced boy, ruthlessly manipulative girl — is made more so by the nature of Alice's fantasy; she wants to commit a perfect murder, and has selected a victim in fellow student Said (Salim Kechiouche). Like Alfred Hitchcock in TORN CURTAIN, director Francois Ozon seems determined that his audience leave knowing that murder isn't easy. But in Ozon's cosmos, the aftermath of murder is worse still. Alice and Luc take Said's corpse deep into a forest and bury it, only to realize they're hopelessly lost. They stumble across a small cabin occupied by a woodsman (Miki Manojlovic) and decide to rob the place, but get caught in the act by the woodsman, who imprisons the thoroughly frightened couple in the cellar. To reveal more would spoil the disturbing twists and turns of Ozon's unsettling screenplay; suffice it to say that Alice and Luc have stumbled into the lair of a very real ogre, who enigmatically addresses his captives as "rabbits" and understands how fickle young lovers can be. This odd, dreamy hybrid — imagine Hansel and Gretel by way of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE — reveals its secrets slowly and comes to a coolly ambiguous conclusion that's the least fairy tale-like thing about it: There's no moral here, just a disquieting sense of poetic inevitability. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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