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Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq

I've seen several movies in the last week, most of which I'd like to post about -- but I've been pretty busy, so I'm going to have to parcel these babies out one at a time. Today I'm going to natter on in a mildly spoilerish fashion about Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq (simply Vidocq in France). Consider yourself warned.

At first glance Vidocq has a lot going for it. It's a magical detective movie with a steampunk feel and it's set in Paris during the French Revolution. It's got a homicidal ninja beastie wearing an enchanted glass mask, a beautiful faux-Asian prostitute whose clothes come off with the pull of a string*, and lots of passionately yelly revolutionaries. Also, it features Gerard Depardieu, who apparently is not dead -- though his character, Vidocq, has met a nasty end.

And so the film opens, with the masked-monster-induced death of Vidocq. And so the film continues, as a nerdy young fan-boi biographer tracks down Vidocq's murderer. And so the film wanders around, blowing its budget on peculiar CGI effects that could best be described as a digital assault on your eyeballs. And so the film induces seizures, with its ADHD-jackrabbit-on-crack directorial stylings.

moriarty6 called the overall look "comic-booky" and that's pretty close to the mark; it is comic-booky, but not in a cool-ass Sin City sort of way. Sin City is a story that was presented on film in a style that took heavy cues from the comic form -- Vidocq is some dude's idea of what a graphic novel would look like if it moved, plus a handful of seemingly appropriate story elements thrown in for good measure because hey, all that CGI has got to be about something, right? Also, there's Gerard Depardieu. Who is totally not too old or fat to be a 19th century action hero. At all.**

At any rate, there's this murder mystery. As we follow the young biographer as he follows in Vidocq's final footsteps, we discover that Vidocq himself was trying to unravel a murder mystery -- one that kept racking up a higher body count by the day. All clues point to a mysterious magical monster of mystery and magic, known as "The Alchemist." The Alchemist is working out a wicked plan, requiring (a). several unscrupulous, deeply narcissistic Frenchmen (WHEREVER SHALL HE FIND THEM?) and (b). a whole lot of virgins (YEAH, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT). Using his dweeby-but-easily-manipulated hench-French, the Alchemist collects his virgin tokens and kills them in nasty ways in order to use their blood to help make his magical mask. Or something. And once the Alchemist is "outed," he goes on a quest to eliminate the no-longer-useful network of flunkies.

Madness ensues, most of it for the audience -- whose members are desperately trying to follow the darkly filmed, choppily edited, frenetic action sequences. Ow. My head.

I want to say that it's a shame the movie is made so weirdly, because it's quite a lot of fun -- but upon reflection, that's not how I really feel. In my assessment (YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY), this movie was about 2/3 there. It was about 2/3 of a good fantasy, about 2/3 of a good mystery, about 2/3 of a good genre movie. But the failing thirds overlap too much to make for a smooth story, even one that's good by my lowball cheesemonkey standards. When it was over, I was relieved -- not because the story had resolved itself to such great satisfaction, but because I could quit squinting into the screen and trying to figure out what was going on.

This one gets about 2-1/2 stars out of 5. Rent it with a bottle of wine, but don't expect too much from it.


* During the scene in which her outfit is removed thusly, my brain was crooning Weezer lyrics from the days of yore -- "If you want to destroy my sweater / pull this thread as I walk away (AS I WALK AWAAAAY!) / watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked ..."
** To be fair, one is given to understand that Vidocq is no spring chick himself, so mostly I'm just teasing here. But how much disbelief must one suspend in order to believe that Gerard Depardieu can somewhat successfully Greco-Roman wrestle a 6-1/2 foot creature endowed with mystical ninja abilities? Answer: a lot.


Jan. 8th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: "A LOT."
They are! And as you can see, where I deleted the post with the correct 'queue' then reposted with comment the incorrect 'cue', they really can't suffer more than they already have.

Onward, to gluttony!

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