France 2006 97 mins. Director Patrick Grandperret
While it's an engaging enough diversion, especiallygiven its fetching female leads, Meurtrieres offers little that hasn't already been seen incountless other French films, from at least as far back as Agnes Varda's 1985drama Vagabond. This true-lifetale of two innocent and well-meaning 19-year old women who are driven by aseries of untoward events to commit murder was inspired by an unrealisedproject of the late French grand master Maurice Pialat, to whose memory it isdedicated.
A robust life on European television can beenvisioned, but it's not quite strong enough to enjoy much success playingtheatrically in Europe or elsewhere.
The idea of beautiful but sexually ripe andindependent-minded young women clashing with the stifling norms of thebourgeoisie is an attractive one, especially, perhaps, to French film-makers.
That vigorous genre is revisited here but not in aparticularly compelling way, though the film does remain completely watchablefrom beginning to end.
Backstories are skimpy.
One girl, Lizzy (Sallette), is suicidal, for reasonsthat are never made clear, and Nina (Kodja), who is apparently of Turkishorigin (in one scene she is overheard speaking to a relative over the telephonein Turkish), seems to have become unbalanced because of her father's suddendeath by heart attack in a bar fight some years earlier.
Whatever paths they take to arrive there, they meetin a mental hospital, become chums, and plan an innocent evening out on thetown. One thing leads tragically to another and disaster ensues.
The most aesthetically imaginative moment in theentire film arrives in its first image, when one of the blood-drenchedcharacters stumbles trance-like over the film's title, which has been paintedon the road.
After that opening sequence, which is actually thelast scene of the story, Grandperret's directorial choices are always crisp andfocused, but not especially imaginative.
An obligatory party scene, in which the girls areshown having a great time fully enjoying life, at some length, slows thingsdown a bit.
Another problem is that at moments the director seemsto want to maintain a certain downhill trajectory -- in which the inevitability is itself the chief attraction-- but every once in a while he lightens the load with a cheerier moment thatmakes it all easier to take but also detracts from the intensity.
He does know how to keep the suspense going, however,and one quick scene in which Nina passes over a bridge with the belovedgrandchild of the family she's staying with is filled with menace.
The quasi-fantasy sequence bizarrely involvingstylized martial arts fighting on a Chinese junk is a particularly wrong-headedchoice, but several scenes with lascivious men are strong.
The many bourgeois characters that stand in the wayof the girls' happiness - especially the loathsome men who can think of onlyone thing - are never portrayed as flawed human characters, but rather asuniformly selfish, hypocritical, and vicious to boot.
The unfortunate need to have money to get on in lifeseems to come in for particular condemnation.
Les Films du Worso
Distribution: Pan-Europeenne Editon
Script: Frederique Moreau, Patrick Grandperret
Cinematography: Pascal Caubere
Cast: Hande Kodja, Celine Sallette