Dir/scr: Etienne Faure, France-US. 2015, 98mins
Bizarre is set the in the Brooklyn bar/club of the same name which is owned by the French filmmaker Jean Stephane Sauvaire. In director Etienne Faure’s wafer-thin, scantily-plotted fiction feature, it’s a burlesque-grotesque, fetish sort of place in which outsized women in clownish makeup take carving knives to their vaginas. Shocking? Not really. Bizarre is a challenge, but not in the ways Faure intended.
Those younger than its 1999 release date may be scandalised by Bizarre, and find all this a revelation, but this film falls somewhere between a documentary with no context and a story with no plot.
Faure has concocted the sketchiest of stories around a pretty young French runaway called Maurice (model Pierre Prieur), who ekes out a living flipping burgers in Brooklyn dives. In a halting voiceover, Maurice says he’s speaking in English “because the director asked me to.” “I don’t really exist,” he warns.
By an artfully-occluded plot contrivance which harsher critics might call lazy – a train rolls by at Myrtle Station, obscuring the dialogue – Maurice is approached to help out at Bizarre, cleaning tables in exchange for a room in the building. Bizarre is owned and run by a lesbian couple who are quite keen on three-ways with hot young boys, pawing Maurice in the shower and alienating a good deal of the L in the LGBT circuit audience, although it could be a B title.
Bizarre is also home to a beautiful boy bartender in the Tadzio vein called Luka (Adrian James, showing a natural talent despite the camera’s swoonsome over-attentiveness to his delicate profile). Maurice flirts sweetly with Luka and spends time in the boxing ring with sex-crazed straight boy Charlie, swopping towels and sultry stares. Is Maurice gay, is he straight, is he a lesbian? Can he act? Who really cares? Bizarre is a tease, and Faure pads the piece with lengthy footage from transgressive cabaret acts as if to compensate for its essential emptiness.
Tattoos and beards (of course, it’s Brooklyn), clowns, face paint, disabled comics and cheerfully jiggling breasts turn into plush fetish, knife and fire eaters, cake smearing, dildos, hot coals, gas masks and, finally, light-up pokers. Maurice puts on a mask and descends into a basement; it’s all very Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s film which took fetish into the mainstream 16 years ago. Those younger than its 1999 release date may be scandalised by Bizarre, and find all this a revelation, but this film falls somewhere between a documentary with no context and a story with no plot.
Wrapping up in a messy hurry, Bizarre is shot stylishly with an over-reliance on hand-held footage which tracks Maurice faithfully from behind as he plods around the same streets in his tight t-shirt and bum-hugging jeans. Rooftop shots and a Coney Island interlude are familiar, but eye candy nonetheless. Music is clubby and grinding, with screeching trains adding to the general cacophony.
Production company: Elvissa Productions, Bushwick Factory
International sales: Visit Films, firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Stephane Gizard, Etienne Faure
Cinematographer: Pavle Savic
Editor: Etienne Faure
Production designer: Stephane Gizard
Main cast: Pierre Prieur, Adrian James, Raquel Nave, Rebekah Underhill, Charlie Himmelstein, Luc Bierme