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La Peau Blanche (2004)

by on 2012/10/15

“What are you exactly? I don’t know anymore.”

* * *

I’ve mentioned one of my fears in the past, that I would fall in love with someone eventually revealed to be a racist. In Going the Distance, it was a near miss, a sense of “Oh whew, it was just a joke.” In La Peau Blanche (“White Skin” in French), no excuses are made for the lead female’s position.

We could attribute her perspective to thematic concerns, perhaps a function of character background. Some viewers might actually respect the fact she’s unapologetic. For me, however, it was yet another knock against two unsympathetic players and their travails.

There’s a bit of a prologue setting up a later complication, and the “hero” Thierry’s (Marc Paquet) proclivities. His love interest, Claire (Marianne Farley), shows up soon after, a busker playing the flute in Montreal. He stalks her and discovers she’s a student at his school.

She seems troubled and rebuffs his advances, if half-heartedly. For his part, he is smitten with her, and his life becomes affected by the obsession. He withers, sickly, losing track of work, time, and memories. When he presses her for an explanation, she claims that she has cancer. So he shelters her in his flat to the dismay of his roommate (Frederic Pierre), who dislikes the changes he’s seeing in his friend.

But does she really have cancer at all? Or is it more . . . delusion, succubism, vampirism, or something else?

To be honest, by the end I didn’t care as much as I should have. I didn’t empathize with the creepy stalker, his snobbish girlfriend, or their situation, period. For a story with such focus on character, they weren’t nearly interesting enough. In truth, I’d rather have followed his roommate instead.

Probably the only aspect of production which jumped out at me was the similarity of the score — or parts of it — to Jean Michel Jarre. Other than that, little caught my attention, for better or for worse.

The unobtrusive craft ensured I focused on the plot, which was still more compelling than the people. In my notes, I remarked on how odd it was I just reviewed Decoys, because this one-year-later effort struck me as a wannabe-artsy take on it. They even included a Cronenberg reference.

Wannabe minus the goofy fun, I should point out.

There’s a joke I could make about it all being shallow and pale, like the title itself, but to leave it there would be disingenuous. It’s just that, for all its quirky characters, its twisting and turning, La Peau Blanche felt like it went nowhere, at least nowhere especially important. It never satisfied or entertained me very much.

* * *

Rated R

90 minutes

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