Chrysalis (film, 2007)


From Death Ray 14.

TWO AND A HALF STARS

2007 /90mins/15/ £12.99

Director: Julien Leclerq

Writers: Julien Leclerq, Nicolas Peufaillit, Franck Philppon, Aude Py

Starring: Albert Dupontel, Marie Guillard, Marthe Keller, Melanie Thierry, Alain Figlarz

 French ‘Les Flics’ flick with a light salad dressing of SF.

We’ve two films in a single skin with this French SF effort. Half the film is a police procedural, the other half an exploration of identity, but neither story element is strong.  As he searches for the missing sister of a corpse, David Hoffman (Dupontel) is grieving for his wife and cop partner, killed by secret service agent turned gangster, Dimitri Nicolov (Figlarz). In a parallel storyline, Professor Brügen, head of a super hi-tech clinic, is attempting to repair her daughter’s memory using a revolutionary machine.

It all knits together in the end, albeit unconvincingly, but it takes far too long before we get to the main essay on memory and selfhood. The detective drama is barely suffices as a framing device for the SF components of the story, and it’s too simplistic to fill the time allocated it. Things get interesting when Hoffman has his own encounter with the machine, and the point the film is trying to make begins to coalesce, but this comes too late.

In other regards it is stereotypically Gallic and stylish; there’s some good camera direction in swishly realised interiors of stark blacks and hard lines. The film also has an attractive, if pointless, sequence depicting remote surgery, and one of the most realistically depicted kung fu fights you’ll ever seen in a film, where hero Hoffman battles baddy Nicolov in his own bathroom. It’s all shot with a suave grey tint, just so we know we should be taking it all as seriously as the director. But we can’t, as the film is totally outclassed by other SF. The pairing of unreliable identity and investigation is common in the genre, and has been tackled better in Dark City, Bladerunner, Minority Report, Angel Heart, Total Recall and Minority Report, among others. Three of those are Phillip K Dick stories, which just goes to show who the master was when worrying about this topic. Now, a French Phillip K Dick film, that’d be something to see…

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