Carnage

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Carnage (2002)

Director: Delphine Gleize
Runtime: 130 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Cast:

Writer-director Delphine Gleize makes her feature debut with Carnage after five well-regarded short films, following a French cinema career path as traditional as American baseball's route from the minors to the majors. And she shows good range with Carnage, which draws from her prior work experience by essentially weaving a set of short stories through a single unifying event. The event, a bullfight, opens the film with pageantry and gore. After the bull is killed and dismembered, its parts find their way across France and Spain, where they influence the lives of disparate characters. The most striking is Raphaëlle Molinier, an epileptic little girl with morbid fascinations developed in part from growing up in the shadow of an enormous Great Dane. Molinier's dog gets one of the bull's bones, sold to her family by insecure actress Chiara Mastroianni, who has a secret admirer in the form of philosopher-turned-skater Clovis Cornillac. The bull's eyes go to medical researcher Jacques Gamblin, who's been cheating on his pregnant wife Lio. The horns go to melancholy taxidermist Bernard Sens and his kleptomaniac mother Esther Gorintin, and some of the flesh is delivered to a restaurant and eaten by Angela Molina, whose daughter Lucia Sanchez is Molinier's teacher. Gleize establishes her multiple plotlines fairly cleanly, though once disentangled, the individual stories don't offer enough incident to be meaningful. They don't mean that much all put together, either, but Carnage is still highly watchable, thanks to Gleize's keen eye. She applies precise, textured compositions in comparative shots that link up the bull, the Great Dane, and a portly New Age guru, or the carving of gyro meat, the stitching of a body, and the slaughter of the bull (which proves more poetic than gruesome). She also finds wit and pathos in brief visual gags and lyrical interludes, like Cornillac skating, crouched, straight into a wall, or Mastroianni being rocked naked in a swimming pool, or an amateur choir composed of burn victims. Gleize's interest in striking imagery and moments of unique cinematic energy (linked by a rhythmic, moody Éric Neveux score) puts her in the company of such similarly young, setpiece-driven filmmakers as Paul Thomas Anderson, Lynne Ramsay, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Carnage isn't as good as any of those directors' features to date, but Gleize shows a distinctive vision in her intuitive arrangements, which connect her characters by matching up how they shop, eat, and die.

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