May 13, 2013

Movie Review: The Night of the Hunted (aka La nuit des traquees)

I must admit to being a neophyte when it comes to Jean Rollin. Prior to The Night of the Hunted, my one experience win Rollin was Zombie Lake, a movie that is not good, but I think I kind of like (I am still making up my mind). It seems to me that Rollin is kind of love him or hate him type of filmmaker. I am rather glad that I discovered him at this stage of my cinematic maturation. If I had watched these movies earlier, I likely wold have written him off and meet looked back. I am not saying you will like him or not, his style is definitely am acquired taste.

The Night of the Hunted is a solidly strange film. It is not a movie with all that much of a plot, it is much more about atmosphere, mood, and the occasional nudity (meaning frequent). It is an arty piece of Eurotrash cinema. It is a mix that is distinctly European and one that can work beautifully in the right hands.

The movie begins with a young woman running from something, scared of something, but we do not know what. We will soon learn that she doesn't either. There is a car driving in the night, it stops and a man, Robert (Vincent Gardere), picks her up and brings her home, somehow not seeing the naked redhead just off the road calling out to her. We learn her name is Elisabeth (former porn star Brigitte Lehaie) and she has a memory, meaning she cannot hang on to memories for very long. She asks Robert not to leave her for fear of forgetting.

Being a piece of exploitation cinema, it is not without it's share of nudity. Robert and Elisabeth engage in a prolonged cinematic love making session (why cast a porn star of not to take some advantage?). The next morning he tells her not to leave as he goes off to work. We know that can't last, right?

A mysterious doctor and his icy assistant break into the apartment and take Elisabeth back to the black tower, a facility populated with people with the same affliction as she. She is roomed with another woman who is further along in degeneration, whatever the issue is, it attacks the mind, memory, and eventually motor skills. The ultimate state is something akin to living death.

Elisabeth, after a couple of lesbian experiences, vows to escape the facility. Somehow, she remembers Robert. This all builds to a climax where Robert confronts the doctors and sees Elisabeth again, before it comes to an inevitable conclusion.

The story is simple, it is never fully explained, but there is something seriously haunting about the way it plays out. There is a profound sense of fear and loss coupled with determination, things that are felt by the lead in the absence of actual understanding, it is like she is driven by basic emotions in the moment. It is hauntingly shot by Rollin who knows how to be a lot out of performers whose skills are not exactly refined.

The title seems a bit misleading, it sounds like something exciting and immediate and what you get is more obtuse and surreal. It feels like an alternate universe. There is also something to be said about Lehaie's performance, there is something about her approach that is captivating, it is not a great performance, but she draws you in and is very sympathetic throughout.

This is a movie to watch and experience. It is certainly no Hollywood production and if I had seen this as recently as a few years ago, I probably would not have given it a second thought.


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