Premiered in 2002, Philippe Grandrieux’s controversial second feature film La vie nouvelle opens a new type of experimentation with form while at the same time challenging the viewer’s tolerance. This film is not used as a means to reflect, but a device probing deeply into the desires and states of mind of the characters. Grandrieux’s usual styles – shaky images, techno music, and impulsive camera position (for viewers to approximate the characters’ complex and intense emotions) remain. Sex scenes are often shown in darkness and even infra-red, leading the viewer to ponder upon the suggested but unseen violence. Contrary to the forward-looking title, the new life is a bleak one. At a brothel-like hotel in an East European city, the young American soldier Seymour (Zach Knighton) encounters and becomes obsessed with the prostitute Mélania (Anna Mouglalis). After an initiatory traumatic hair cutting scene, the human trafficker Boyan transforms Mélania into a commodity (she is carried around like a piece of weightless luggage). In this degraded urban space, men’s bestiality merges with that of dogs. It is the disfigured bodies and gestures, instead of usual conversation or screams, that depicts the horror. The sensitive Seymour eventually attempts to purchase Mélania outright. Signing a pact with Mélania’s infamous master, Seymour is left with a handsome price to pay. This is a love it or hate it auteur film about control, evilness, objectified bodies, internalised fear, and extreme cinematic expression, with morally-suspect moments bound by Grandrieux’s highly perceptive vision and atmospheric images. —cambridgefilmfestival.org.uk
Philippe Jesus Grandrieux is a French film director born in 1954.
He studied movies at the INSAS (Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle) in Brussels and started his career as a moviemaker by shooting fictional films and documentaries. Grandrieux then worked as an experimental filmmaker in Belgium where he exhibited his video works at local museums. Since the eighties, he has been working in collaboration with the French Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA) where he has been inventing new cinematographic forms and formats that put into question central notions in film writing: for instance the notions of documentary, information and film essay. In 1990, he created the film research lab “Live” which produced one hour long sequences by Thierry Kuntzel, Robert Kramer and Robert Frank. He also taught movies from time to time at la FEMIS (Fondation Européenne pour les Métiers de l’Image et du Son) and at l’Ecole à l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts (Paris… read more
An indelible sensory experience. It is a cinematic trance of the highest order dealing with primal emotions, actions and the most basic 'object' - the body. Grandrieux proves himself time and time again to be an innovator of how films should be made and perceived. Reminiscent of Carax in a few scenes, the film is an altogether primal portrayal of man and his surroundings. Memorable beyond remark. Unforgettable.
FNC '12 Grandrieux followed up the disturbing 'Sombre' with this work of equal unsettlement, experimentation and body horror. Bold, clever and full of memorable image. The degradation the characters suffer, especially actress Anna Mouglalis, is hard to digest and often upsetting yet one can't look away. By the time the desaturated thermal image screaming begins one has become numb to the experience.His best to date.
Cinema imperscrutabile, sensoriale. Un cinema fatto di ombre e luci offuscate. Il cinema di Philippe Grandrieux!