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  Calvaire You're My Wife Now
Year: 2004
Director: Fabrice du Welz
Stars: Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer, Philippe Nahon, Jean-Luc Couchard, Brigitte Lahaie, Gigi Coursigni, Philippe Grand'Henry, Jo Prestia, Marc Lefebvre, Alfred David, Alain Delaunois, Vincent Cahay, Johan Meys
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) is a singer who currently performs to the elderly in care homes, but has ambitions to move up in the world. Today, he has just completed a show and is in what passes for a dressing room when one of the old ladies he has been singing to enters the room. She sits down and asks him for a favour; he is happy to go along with her until he realises she wants sexual gratification, then he sits in embarrassed silence while she looks ashamed and berates herself. Outside, he goes to his van and meets the head of the care home (Brigitte Lahaie), who is sorry to see him go, and after handing him his money in an envelope she asks for a hug, which she is then reluctant to break. When Marc finally gets away, he'll look back with fondness on these awkward situations, considering what's next...

A Calvaire, or Calvary, is a religious term meaning a representation of the Passion of the Christ or the crucifixion, and indeed one appears towards the end of this strange, unsettling but blackly comic film. Somewhat pretentiously, here Marc has to undergo his own "ordeal" (also the English title of the film), but the religious factor isn't laid on too thick. Calvary was also the site of Chirst's execution, and although Marc doesn't die to be raised again three days later, he is put through a ghastly experience of torture after his van breaks down and he goes to a nearby inn for shelter.

Scripted by Romain Protat and director Fabrice de Welz, based loosely on their earlier short film, Calvaire doesn't rush into things. We see from the start that Marc is worshipped in his own way by the people he meets at the care homes, but while he can cope with this he isn't prepared for the adulation he is about to encounter. For the first half, the film steadily builds up its atmosphere of unease, quite a bit thanks to BenoƮt Debie's superbly dingy, overcast cinematography, as Marc stays at the inn with its owner, the cheery Paul Bartel (the excellent Jackie Berroyer).

As with many horrors of the 2000s, even not including the remakes, the film is packed with homages: the fact that the villain is named after a cult director for one thing. But the villain is actually a rather pathetic chap who, he never tires of telling Marc, has been left by his wife Gloria some years before and still pines for her. He tells Marc not to go to the village, stirring up memories of The Wicker Man in its rural shivers, and while Marc doesn't venture that far, when out walking he does notice a handful of villagers in a barn committing an unsavoury act with an animal, prompting him to quickly return to the inn where he hopes the mechanic has fixed the van by now.

But, oh dear, it is not to be, as eventually after a couple of days and nights Marc awakens to witness Bartel gleefully smashing up the vehicle with a sledgehammer, and attempting to set fire to it. Now he is plunged into the nightmare, but for the audience there's that uncertain feeling of the situation being so ridiculous that they wonder whether they should be laughing or not. This is due to the comedic set up of Bartel believing that Marc is in fact Gloria returned, and this time he's not going to let her get away so easily. This Gloria was obviously quite a woman, as we find out that the all-male village has been desperately missing her as well and also are happy to see Marc as the absent object of their affection. Although indebted to its influences, Calvaire has a life of its own, what with every character except Marc driven by their aching loneliness, while he finds he can't escape being victim to their desires. It's apparently asking, what if Christ had actually been an unfortunate man surrounded by obsessed lunatics?
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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