Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ETOILE (1990)

For those that are interested (and there are a few of you out there) I liked ETOILE. It’s not a great film but it is worth seeing and while it doesn’t completely succeed it is more than good enough to warrant seeking out. The story is reminiscent of several other tales with a touch of SUSPIRIA, a dollop of REPLUSION, a pinch of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE and a sprinkle of every possession film the 1970s ever produced. It is never brilliant but it held my interest because of its mystery story structure, some fascinating cast members and the blossoming of Jenifer Connelly as an actress. This is a transition film for Miss Connelly as she moved from child actor to adult and as such her performance is sometimes off and sometimes perfect. You can see her learning her craft as she works here and doing a pretty good job but there are more than a few moments where she is flat and unconvincing. Of course, she has the hardest part in the script as the girl who has to essentially play two people one of which may be a ghost. Charles During has a small role but is really good in that way a great character actor can be depended upon to be. He knows exactly what is required of him and he hits all his notes well even when asked to go slightly nuts.

On the less than good performance side is Gary McCleery as the love interest. He is pretty bad and unfortunately since the bulk of the mystery element revolves around his search for Connolly’s character we spend far too much time watching him try to communicate confusion or awe. He drags the film down in most every scene. Sadly he’s not helped much by the direction which seems to be striving for an arch, mysterious vision but at times just manages to feel a bit too distant to get us involved. And I’m really not sure what to make of the bizarre ‘Black Swan’ thing that shows up near the end to terrorize McCleery’s character. It’s such an outlandish, unexpected thing I’m kind of impressed but it doesn’t at all fit the tone of what has come before and has no solid logic as part of the narrative. Strange.

As for the question of whether this film was an influence on BLACK SWAN (2010), I would have to say yes. Although there are a number of big divergences and a very different mood there are more than enough points of similarity between the two movies to indicate some inspiration at the very least. The fact that BLACK SWAN also feels very much like a tonal sister to SUSPIRIA speaks to the relationship as well. There’s nothing at all wrong with this and Darren Aronofsky's film is clearly superior but a double feature of the two movies would make for an entertaining discussion starter for film nuts.

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