Monday, March 23, 2009

Sombre (1998)

It seems that I'm doomed to watch one movie per decade that leaves me mystified, frustrated, bewildered--well, just plain stumped! As a kid, I was rendered speechless (an amazing feat if you knew me as a child) by Fantasia. As a teenager, I discovered Mulholland Drive by David Lynch. I remember the DVD came with an insert that listed 10 clues to look for in order to unlock the mystery of the movie...I'm still looking for a reasonable explanation. Now, in my 20's, I have discovered this decade's puzzling movie. A little French film called Sombre.

The plot is about a serial killer who drives around France strangling prostitutes. This is one of those films that aims to stand out as a brilliant work of art, but if this is art, I'm Michelangelo. In French, sombre means dark, which describes both the mood and the lighting of this movie. The first 50 minutes are so poorly lit I could barely see anything, save for maybe a pinhole of light, an arm here and there, some guy's hair blowing in the wind, and so on. Aside from poor lighting, the movie is reminiscent of Mulholland Drive in its dreamlike scene changes that are supposed to build mystery and suspense, but actually weighted my eyelids with sleep. After an hour of all this dreadful camerawork, and maybe four lines of dialogue, I fell asleep.

Upon waking, I skipped back to where I left off and witnessed some of the thinnest character development I've ever experienced. The serial killer encounters two sisters who find him peculiar, but instead of yielding to their women's intuition, they continue to hang out with him. None of their actions have any rationale. Finally, I just turned it off, and I hardly ever turn a movie off before it's over. I have the same policy on books: Always finish what you've started.

If the point of Sombre is to make its audience feel the way a confused, maniacal serial killer feels, it succeeds. As far as I can tell, it's a misogynistic film, portraying women as weak and feeble-minded.

Review Soundtrack
August Burns Red - "The Blinding Light"
Morphine - "The Night"

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