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  Flesh of the Orchid Made It Through The Rain
Year: 1975
Director: Patrice Chéreau
Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Edwige Feuillère, Simone Signoret, Alida Valli, Hans Christian Blech, François Simon, Hugues Quester, Rémy Germain, Roland Bertin, Marcel Imhoff, Pierre Asso, Marie-Louise Ebeli, Ève Francis, Luigi Zerbinati
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Claire (Charlotte Rampling) has been incarcerated in a French mental institution for a while now, but sees her chance to escape when the gamekeeper of the estate the hospital sits on ventures up to her room one day and tries to rape her - a big mistake as she grabs his knife and attacks his eyes with it. Now on the run, Claire makes her way through the countryside, unaware that she will soon be meeting someone sympathetic to her plight. He is Louis (Bruno Cremer), who is currently keeping safe a witness to a crime, meaning both of them are in danger...

Although you might not have known it if you hadn't been told, Flesh of the Orchid was the sequel to Robert Aldrich's The Grissom Gang, as well as the sequel to the notorious British thriller No Orchids for Miss Blandish. Well, sort of, as it took as its inspiration the James Hadley Chase novel that followed up the book those two were based upon, but could just as easily stand alone as a work in its own right. It was also notable for being the directorial debut of a talent best known for his work on the stage, Patrice Chéreau, and there were those who thought after seeing this that the stage was where he should have stayed.

On film outside France Chereau's most celebrated effort was La Reine Margot, a complex and bloodsoaked historical melodrama, and you could see much of the same attention to the visuals here, as well as unfortunately the same approach to actually telling the story, as if that aspect was something that tended to get away from him. Indeed, you could spend much of this film in the dark as to what was supposed to be going on, looking like the director was taking it for granted that you had read the book first; all right, Chase was a very popular pulp novelist in his day, especially on the Continent, but not everyone was going to have partaken of his stories.

Especially now as his star has fallen considerably since the writer's heyday; author of nearly a hundred books, all but a small fraction are now out of print. Also against the entertainment factor of this was the relentlessly grim imagery, not that the violence was lingered upon as it wasn't, but every shot outside is of miserable and rain-drenched landscapes, and every shot inside is of gloomy rooms that do little to cheer the senses. As if these surroundings were affecting them deeply, the cast went about their roles with a dour dedication, and Rampling proved strangely captivating as the insane, dangerous, but decidedly cold heiress, knowing nothing except that she wanted out of whatever situation she was in.

Rampling was one of those actresses who were born to play it cold, of course, something about the vaguely cruel set of her features and air of aloofness, so this part was not so much of a stretch for her. She was well cast, and as Claire meets up with Louis (Cremer found lasting fame late in life on television as Maigret, whose detection skills would have come in handy here), they end up one of those couples on the run so beloved of thriller writers. To add to the oddity, they're pursued by a couple of ex-circus knife throwers who have turned hitmen, as well as Claire's aunt (Edwige Feuillère) and her large entourage, a turn of events which sees to it that everyone dooms nearly everyone else. It was a particularly bleak tale, this one, and the odd starry name did little to lighten the mood (Simone Signoret is the only one who laughs), leaving you not so much gripped by the plot, and more feeling a bit down. Which may have been the intention. Music by Fiorenzo Carpi.

Aka: La chair de l'orchidée
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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