Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World (Belgium, 2018)

Dunno, grammar fascists like us might indivertibly think that whoever translated the original title (La femme la plus assassinée du monde) was a bit too literal, as the French verb "assassiner" is not exactly the same as the English verb "assassinate". Indeed, the titular woman is hardly the most "assassinated" [Webster's: assassinate — "to murder (a usually prominent person) by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons"], although she might well be the most murdered [Webster's: murder — "the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought"]. The title, however, is actually a direct reference to the inspiration behind the film and the film's lead character, the long forgotten French theatrical scream queen, Paula Maxa (7 Dec 1898 – 23 Sept 1970), known in her day as the world's most assassinated woman, so the title is more of a direct historical reference than another (if extremely minor) blemish to this narratively flawed French-language movie, a movie that is without doubt one of the most intriguing Netfux-financed movies we've caught on Netfux this year. Yes, the story is illogical and full of holes, but any contemporary film that attempts (and succeeds) at transposing the ennui and world-weary existentialism of classic French cinema (see: Port of Shadows [1938]) into a period-set gore movie is, in our book, a film worth watching. Especially when its entire mise-en-scene is so perfect.
The perfectly cast Anna Mouglalis (of Kiss of the Damned [2012 / trailer]) stars as Paula, and she does an excellent job. Paula, the name-draw actress of Paris's Grand Guignol Theater roughly around the turn of the last century, is maimed and murdered on stage every night. But her weariness and all-encompassing sense of sadness is not just due to the emotionally draining career she has long tired of: in her youth she survived a trip to the beach with psycho killer, but her sister did not. And now, a sex killer — could it be the same one? — has her in his sights.
As does Jeans (Niels Schneider), actually, if but in a different way: a newspaper reporter depressed by an unattainable love (and hunted by that woman's murderously jealous husband), he has been assigned by his newspaper to write about Paula and the Grand Guignol. But soon his and her lips shall meet…
As much of an art film as a horror movie, The Most Assassinated Woman in the World does not spare the gore (both on and off the Grand Guignol stage), but the movie is definitely best enjoyed if one doesn't put the plot development and story under a magnifying glass and, instead, simply enjoys the set pieces and mood and overall nonconformity of an arty genre movie with high aesthetic aspirations.* (When was the last time you saw a horror movie in which a man drowning his broken heart at a smoky dive looks around and all the couples he sees there consist of himself making out with his lost love?)
Perfect for fans of movies like Harry Kümel's Daughters of Darkness (1971 / trailer) and arthouse horror.
* (Spoilers.) If one does look closely, however, one might be turned off at the end by the realization that Paula and her at-first-glance duplicitous pal at the theater, special effects director Paul (Jean-Michel Balthazar of Cub [2014 / trailer] and Vampire Party [2008 / German trailer]), obviously not only know who the killer is from the start, but are also willing to accept the murder of other women simply so that Paula, in the end, can disappear to a new life — leaving the killer alive and uncaught behind to continue killing further women. Ditto, the ease with which Paul reappears in the last scene is laughable, all the more so due to his tossed-off line explaining his presence. Yep, if you think too much about the plot development instead of going with the flow, you might not like this film at all. (So do yourself a favor: go into this movie like a Trump-supporting Republican and turn off your brain first.)

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...