|Brotherhood of the Wolf
Le Pacte du Loups
dir Christophe Gans
scr Stéphane Cabel
with Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Jérémie Rénier, Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, Emilie Dequenne, Jean Yanne, Jean-François Stévenin, Johan Leysen, Bernard Farcy, Edith Scob, Jacques Perrin
release UK 9.Nov.01; US 18.Jan.02
StudioCanal 01/France 2h14
This slick French period thriller is certainly an opulent production, with gorgeous costumes and settings, lively camera work and fine actors. It's also a self-indulgent mess in bad need of serious editing. It's 1766 and a horrific beast is terrorising the villagers in Gevaudan. So officials call in the eminent naturalist Fronsac (Le Bihan), who arrives with his American Indian blood brother Mani (Dacascos) and, with the help of a young aristocrat (Renier), gets right to work. But his discoveries don't sit well with the local political leaders, who want a better story to take back to King Louis XV. Meanwhile, Fronsac dallies with both a mysterious courtesan (Bellucci) and a beautiful noblewoman (Dequenne) whose creepy brother (Cassel) keeps appearing at just the right place as if on cue.
Gans has proven his cinematic style before (the manga adventure Crying Freeman), and he lets loose here with massive action sequences, dizzying cinematography and whizzy effects work. But the big fight sequences are staged and edited so badly that we can barely figure out what's going on, not to mention why. And the Sleepy Hollow-like story (city clicker sceptic gets to the bottom of murderous local legend) drags badly--it's like Gans was so pleased by all his nifty visuals that he couldn't bear to leave a single one on the cutting room floor. The impressive creature work (by the Henson Shop) is overused, as are the Native American stunts, buxom damsels in distress, ghoulish plot twists and atmospheric shots of wolves watching from the woods. The narrative suffers and, despite the incessant action and gutsy performances, the film feels dull and repetitive. Especially as it all spins out to involve conspiracy, secret societies and a government cover-up. It's just too much on every level, and a real example of a case where less would have been much more.
|"All I knew beforehand was that this was a very expensive French film and that it was based on a true story of a strange beast that terrorised a region of France. From its incredibly stunning opening sequences to its melancholic but beautifully photographed ending I was totally spellbound. I enjoy going to the movies and recently saw Moulin Rouge and AI Artificial Intelligence both of which really impressed me with their visual style and intelligence. But it is Christophe Gans' film which lingers in my mind. Great films have many brilliant moments, whether it is an original screenplay, beautiful cinematography, a dazzling score, an ensemble of character actors that complement each other perfectly, or lavish set design and costumes. But to find so many elements in one film is rare. I believe Brotherhood of the Wolf is a great film. Thing is, there are so many great French films I have enjoyed over the years that never get the credit they deserve. You only have to look at the Empire magazine readers poll to see that only one sub-titled film (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) made the top 50! Brotherhood of the Wolf deserves to be seen by a wider audience. It is a truly unique film and although some people have found fault with some aspects, all I can do is urge you to go and see this incredible and breathtaking film. It really is unmissable." --Thomas Hodgens, Glasgow 7.Oct.01