After a Spanish matador (Julien Lescarret) is shish-kebabed by a gigantic majestic hunk of steak, the unfortunate bovine is taken to the abattoir where he's cut up into more manageable pieces and posted around Europe.
The ears are placed under the corner of the bullfighters bed, as an honour. An Italian actress sells one the animals bones (as part of a supermarket promotion) to a couple for oversized Great Dane of their epileptic little girl (an excellent performance from Raphaelle Molinier). The animals doleful brown eyes find their way to an unfaithful scientist (Jacques Gamblin), who is indulging in an affair behind the back of his pregnant wife (the Portuguese singer Lio). A sweet natured French amateur taxidermist (Bernard Sens) receives the beast’s horns from his proud and doubting mother, as a birthday present. Some of the meat finds it’s way to the plate of a woman (Angela Molina) in a Spanish restaurant.
Yes, I know it sounds like a load of grim expressionist counter cinema bull, fit only for film students and latte swilling foreign film groupies. General consensus in the office said, that by the back of the box, I drew the short straw here when it came to reviewing this one. So, taking the beast by the horns, I sat down last night to “get it over with”.
We were wrong. There's a lot to like about 'Carnages' that raises it above the common herd. French writer-director Delphine Gleize is obviously a woman with shed loads of creative flair, plus an almost intuitive eye for texture, composition and colour. She effortlessly links these scenarios with visually cunning and respect to a beautifully crafted narrative. Admittedly, 'Carnages' isn’t the most accessible of films, but some brief snatches of humanising comic relief work nicely against the open harshness and docu-drama of the film in general.
'Carnages' uses striking visuals and some strong, under-stated acting to link the lives of this eclectic group of continentals and this keeps your attention for the first ¾ of the movie. While far from being just Euro-bull, it starts to ware a little thin after that and it seems to be trying a wee bit too-hard to convince us of their innate euro-artiness, and may be guilty of buying into their own hype and taking itself a bit too seriously for the English palate.
Bullfighting is undoubtedly one of the best known, although at the same time most polemical Spanish popular customs and, possibly, ‘Carnages' isn’t likely to gain the credit in this country that it just may deserve on the strength of our love of all things four legged and cultural differences alone. This is a red rag to many. Ignore that, it's a nicely shot and challenging movie that’s worth taking a butchers. This film wasn’t the bull I was warned it was going to be, nor the miserabalist butchery foretold by the back of the box. It’s left me curious as to where Gleize's career will lead her next.
Movie: 3 of 5