A traveling entertainer falls prey to a disturbed recluse in director Fabrice de Welz's twisted, slow burn riff on Deliverance and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Having finished his latest performance at a remote retirement home, wandering singer Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) packs his gear into his van and sets out towards his next gig. Unfortunately for Marc, the fog shrouded roads of rural France are more treacherous than he ever anticipated. When his van breaks down in the middle of the night and a skittish local promises to lead him to a nearby inn owned by the eccentric recluse Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), it appears that luck may be on Marc's side and he will be back on the road with the light of the morning sun. This isn't your average bed and breakfast though, and Bartel certainly isn't the kindly innkeeper he initially appears to be. When Marc's van is set aflame and his increasingly menacing host makes a most disturbing claim, the soft-spoken singer will be forced to fight for his life against not only Bartel, but an entire village of deeply disturbed woodsmen. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide
GreenCine Exclusive Interview
"Fabrice du Welz's Calvaire (The Ordeal) marks the high point so far of Eurohorror," wrote Salon's Andrew O'Hehir this summer. In his talk with the Belgian director, Jonathan Marlow hears that du Welz's next film will take him from the European flatlands to the jungles of Far East Asia. Full article >>
Laurent Lucas sometimes gets a bad rap from America critics, but I find him generally a treat to observe. He makes a particularly good "everyman"--attractive but not gorgeous, with a lean, trim body that's a long way from buffed. Accused of being inexpressive, he is, rather, a subtle actor (perhaps too much so to impress American critics who often go for the obvious). From "La Nouvelle Eve" to "Haute les Coeurs," "With a Friend Like Harry," "In My Skin," "Who Killed Bambi" and "Lemming," Lucas has proven a particular fine partner/sounding board for some of France's best actresses.
In CALVAIRE, he plays opposite a raft of mostly psycho males bent on making his life miserable (they do, they do) and is allowed little more than the opportunity to wear a dowdy dress, cry, run away and scream for help. He manages all this well enough but it is, after a stretch of time, less than interesting. Much better is the opening scene in which, as a second-rate but not untalented singer/dancer/performer in venues like old-age homes, he unintentionally seduces one of the seniors (and, we later learn, a staff member), Lucas uses his pleasant, slightly withdrawn manner just about perfectly.
When this terrific beginning ends and he drives off to down the road toward the rest of this ugly and sodden movie, I'd rather have followed him just about anywhere else. If you continue with the film, watch closely the scene in which his antagonist, nicely played by Jackie Berroyer, pushes his "guest" to sing for him. Lucas starts slowly, stops, is pushed again, then opens up and actually enjoys the number--doing a lovely job, even a capella. "Calvaire" must have some symbolic meaning for its Belgian filmmaker Fabrice Du Welz. Otherwise this--his first full-length work--is mostly unredeemed (not to mention unexplained and unbelievable) unpleasantness. Two of my four rating points are solely due to the talented Mr. Lucas.
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.