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CRIMINAL LOVERS (AMANTS CRIMINELS, LES) (director/writer: François Ozon; cinematographer: Pierre Stoeber; editor: Dominique Petrot; music: Philippe Rombi; cast: Natacha Régnier (Alice), Jérémie Rénier (Luc), Miki Manojlovic (L’homme de forêt), Salim Kechiouche (Saïd), Yasmine Belmadi (Karim); Runtime: 96; Strand Releasing; 1999)
“A gay fairy tale based on “Hansel and Gretel.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A gay fairy tale based on “Hansel and Gretel.” The story is also derivative of a host of popular Hollywood films. The protagonists are unsympathetic figures, in fact no one in the film is likable. Director François Ozon’s (“See the Sea”/”Sitcom”) film seems like one big personal sick joke the director is having in which he’s perhaps the only one getting the joke, and even if this is a well-crafted work it fails to be involving or does it make any salient points. Instead it’s a twisted, gleeful, amoral and misogynistic film, about teen killers who are merely driven by their base instincts. Good performances by the stars seem wasted in this stylish but unappealing work.

The two central figures are working-class suburban high school students. Alice (Natacha Régnier) is a manipulative bitch and the vulnerable Luc (Jeremie Renier) is the boyfriend she offers her love to. She cajoles him to murder an egotistical and vain Arab fellow high school student Saïd (Salim Kechiouche). Alice concocts a story that Saïd engineered a gang rape on her after mocking her and trying to seduce her. The impotent Luc is further told that Saïd is the only one who didn’t participate in the rape, but he took photos and wants her to fuck him or else he’ll show the photos around. When Alice lures the obnoxious sexist Saïd in the school locker room, Luc bursts in while they’re in the middle of doing it on the floor and he repeatedly stabs him.

Luc borrows his father’s car and they drive to a wooded area where they bury Saïd in a shallow grave. But they get lost in the woods and the bitchy Alice rags the impotent Luc that he’s a loser and can’t act like a man to lead the way out. When Luc finds a locked cottage — the hungry criminals find the key and break in and steal some food. To their surprise the scraggy bearded, wild looking woodsman who lives in the cottage, returns and is armed with a rifle. The woodsman locks the two in the dark cellar with the body of Saïd. The woodsman dug it up supposedly to teach them a lesson about right and wrong. But the real lesson the woodsman wants to teach, is directed at Luc. He sodomizes the chained teen and it’s the first time that Luc comes. Supposedly he was a repressed homosexual and this rape freed him to find his sexual identity.

Despite the director’s clever plotline, he can never bring any warmth to the film. It’s just an exercise in craftsmanship. The story never gets over its perverseness.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”