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Dany Doremus, a lonely secretary roped in by her boss to work on a big project at his home, steals her boss’s car for a joyride to the sea as her boss and his family go away on holiday. When she makes numerous stops from town to town, the townsfolk approach her, claiming and swearing they know her even though she’s never been to this particular area before. If things couldn’t get weirder or even more suspenseful, a dead body is discovered in the car’s trunk. Dany wonders if she’s deranged and crazy or just a part of a some elaborate murder mystery conspired against her.
“The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun” is a remake of the 1970 Anatole Litvak film of the same title. Though I’ve never seen the original Litvak film based off the award winning crime novel by Sebastien Japrisot, I’m sure director Joann Sfar’s film doesn’t stray much from the main artery that is the story, but Sfar spices up the tale through the addition of a young and feverishly heart-throbbing cast of actors and actresses. A murder mystery that sells sex more than thrills, Joann Sfar explicitly has Scottish born actress Freya Mavor and “Nymphomaniac’s” Stacy Martin do more than their fair share being sex symbol and straining the barrier of sexual tension, especially with a couple of highly eroticized topless scenes from both actresses. In a bombardment of thigh high mini skirts and tight at the waist dresses, the film setting is to reflect the 1960s to 1970s time period where if the story was in the technology age, “The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun” might have had a totally different outcome.
Like any good crime novels or films, noir plays a bit part and with the Sfar remake, noir is ever present from beginning to end. Dany’s noir scenario has her being plagued by a retraced trip she’s never initially taken, being roughed up by a glove-wearing mystery person in a duo of giallo familiar scenes, and discovering a dead body in the trunk of her boss’s Thunderbird. All the pieces come together to form one big elaborate undertaking with the big twist at the end and while I’m not sure if the novel and the Litvak film do marvelous work in the detail to wrap Dany’s adventure, I feel Sfar’s missed the mark by not filing in the holes that construct a twist ending. Maybe Japrisot’s novel a bit vague too, but there’s certainly multiple voids that needed to be filled to plausibly and logically explain the ending.
As I said before, Freya Mavor’s sexiness couldn’t be any more potent. The relatively young in the industry actress has tons of potential outside the European film market. Stacy Martin has been on that fringe of the industry since her controversial breakout role in Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac.” Both Mavor and Martin work well together, creating the tension between their characters while pulling off a lustrous vision. The male lead playing Michael, Benjamin Biolay, reminds me of a young Benicio del Toro with a very reserved demeanor and calculating coldness about him.
Magnolia Pictures proudly releases the remake of “The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun” in limited theaters across the nation today, December 18th, and will also be available on demand. Another variation of an award winning story with modern actors set in a time period that has been long forgotten, “The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun” stimulates the whodunit objective that keeps you on the edge of your seat for every second.
Inspector Nick Cafmeyer has a past constantly haunted by the abduction and the unknown whereabouts of his brother Bjorn. Nick always knew who took his beloved brother, a neighbor named Ivan Plettinckx, who relentlessly harasses and leaves clues about missing Bjorn, sometimes leaving clues right under Nick’s front door. Simultaneously, a young boy has gone missing when the parents are discovered in their home handcuffed to the fixtures for a number of days. Nick uses his tragic past and anger as extreme motivation in finding the missing boy and conducts a grand manhunt, ensuing to track down a dangerous and disturbed pedophile that is only known by the monikers of The Biter and The Troll. When Nick believes his missing boy case and his sibling Bjorn are connected, Ivan Plettinckx becomes his number one suspect and while Nick continues to investigate and target Plettinckx, another innocent family comes under siege by The Troll and the family’s time is quickly running out.
“The Treatment” is a captivating crime thriller from Belgium with a controversial and complex subject matter perhaps too explicit and bold for American taste. Not many films can pull off severe child mistreatment without the American ratings board slicing and dicing content and leaving difficult and displeasurable scenes on the cutting room floor. For director Hans Herbots, the cutting room floor serves at only his will as he chooses what stays and goes from his film “The Treatment.” Herbots has an incessant delivery of darkness that will clutch tightly and not release your attention, causing a disorientation in the story; a certifiable understatement when going deeper and deeper into this grim pit of child perversion. Just when you think the story starts to become bright and soft, Herbots slightly navigates around the rim of the positive portions and abruptly thrusts us back into that disturbing world with the homemade movies encoded in VHS video tapes, dead children with rectum bleeding and bite marks, and a story so heinous, bathing in sanitizer won’t thoroughly clean the body nor soul.
Aside from Inspector Nick’s dual and intertwining plots, a plethora of parallel character story lines supports the main artery, attempting to divert the focus toward a more “whodunnit” crime mystery: a swimming instructor whose awfully suspicious around police and seemingly uncomfortable around children, a father with an abusive past but supposedly victimized by The Troll, and a mentally unstable junk collector who happened to be dumpster diving during the police search for the missing boy. These characters are lead in various directions with no clear evidence or stability toward their role. The genius behind these characters are from the pens of “The Treatment” novelist, a British crime writer and bestselling author, Mo Hayder and the film adaption screenwriter Carl Joos. The particulars in molding the ambiguous characters are hard to detect, leaving one to guess these characters’ intentions and creating tension and determination on finding out just who is and who is not the child killing creep.
I have not kept up on Belgium actors and am not in the loop of their skill or fame, but theater actor Geert Van Rampelberg as Inspector Nick Cafmeyer engrosses the character by being a reckless and driven man unhinged by his past. Rampelberg might oversell here and there in certain scenes, but his shortcomings are overshadowed by the fire in his eyes and the repulsive subject matter of the story. If in the vengeful shoes of Nick, there is an expectation that one might act the same as Nick, aggressing for truth and striving to save the world no matter the cost even if that means putting the law on the back burner. I also like the aspect that Nick has no love interest; he ties himself to no one, embracing his cause all the more. However, there lies an unspoken companionship between him and his supervisor Danni. Their professional interactions seem personally close, but Nick also keeps himself at a distance, keeping her from becoming to close and that separation keeps him, if any, focused on the task at hand.
Artsploitation Films scores big with the Eye Works Films production and taboo-ridden film “The Treatment” and as an extra bonus, the Blu-ray release sizzles with a stunning 2.35:1 widescreen ratio presentation and a 5.1 surround sound in Dutch language with English subtitles. The subtitles don’t miss a beat with the dialogue and the composing by REC Sound company broods through the dark scenes. Amongst the technical portions, the bonus features contain trailers of various Artsploitation films, a featurette, and deleted scenes. The flawless picture catches every detail which will surely leave a dastardly seared imprint of immoral wretchedness in the whites of eyes.