Friday, July 17, 2015

Movie Review: Alleluia

Directed by: Fabrice Du Welz.
Written by: Fabrice Du Welz & Romain Protat & Vincent Tavier.
Starring: Lola Dueñas (Gloria), Laurent Lucas (Michel), Édith Le Merdy (Marguerite), Anne-Marie Loop (Gabriella), Stéphane Bissot (Madeleine), David Murgia (Père Luis), Héléna Noguerra (Solange), Renaud Rutten (Le réceptionniste), Philippe Résimont (Fritkot man).

There have been four films based on the infamous Lonely Hearts murderers – Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck – of the 1940s. The most well-known is probably Leonard Kastle's The Honeymoon Killers (1969) – one of those rare films by a filmmaker who only made one film to become a sort of classic. One of the best reviewed was 1996ès Deep Crimson (unseen by me) from Mexico. And then there was the more typical, would-be noir Lonely Hearts with John Travolta, Jared Leto and Salma Hayek. Fabrice Du Welz's Alleluia makes you forget those previous versions fairly early on. This is a violent, disturbing almost non-stop assault on the senses that is brutal, bloody, surreal and downright tough to watch. It is a demented love story that shows that sometimes nothing is more dangerous than love.

The movie stars Lola Duenas as Gloria – a single mother, who works in the hospital morgue. Her friend encourages her to try online dating, and she reluctantly agrees – meeting Michel (Laurent Lucas) and having a pleasant lunch – that turns into more when he comes home with her. He asks for some money – a loan, he assures her – which she provides, and then he disappears. But Gloria tracks her – not for retribution, but because she has fallen head over heels in love with him. She quickly realizes what he does for a living – seduces women and then milks them for money – and says she doesn’t care. She will even help.

The movie is split into four parts – one for each of Michel’s marks, including Gloria. Once she gets together with Michel, Gloria abandons everything – her job, her daughter – and sets off with him. It doesn’t take him long to attract another, slighter older rich woman – Marguerite – who he marries, and passes on Gloria as his sister (even though Marguerite wonders why she has a Spanish accent, and Michel doesn’t). But Gloria cannot control her rage when Michel has sex with these other women. Surprisingly, it isn’t Michel who is the violent one, but its Gloria. Yet he continues to try and succeeds – to get other women – and Gloria continues to fly out of control.

As the film moves along, it gets more frantic, more surreal, bloodier and more disturbing. The film has a weird scene where Gloria sings a song, right before she starts cutting up one of the dead bodies. Du Welz uses close-ups, making the pair look monstrous and unreal. They are both unrepentant sociopaths, addicted to doing what they are doing, and addicted to each other. Du Welz makes interesting use of The African Queen in the movie – a great, old school Hollywood love story – to show the difference between Bogart and Hepburn, and these two.

The two lead performances are excellent – especially the one by Duenas, who goes completely unhinged, yet manages to make it all believable. The movie never truly explains why they do what they do – why Gloria is so enthralled with Michel, and vice versa – but it portrays their obsessive relationship well – right up to its disturbing, yet subtle climax. Alleluia is not an easy film to watch or to like – but the further away I get from it, the more I admire it. It goes for broke – and mainly succeeds.

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