Sunday, July 17, 2005

Docteur Chance (1997)

Dan Sallitt once made a statement (one whose sentiment I share 100%) to the effect that after seeing Esther Kahn there is a period in which other films seem inadequate; 'Why can't this film be more like Esther Kahn?' Is it a coincidence that maybe a week after I revisited Desplechin's film (on DVD this time) I should see another great film that I suspect will have the same temporary, ruinous effect on my movie-watching?

F.J. Ossang's Docteur Chance: France/Chile; 1997. I don't think this film was released in the United States; no reviews for it exist on the IMDB (where it has a ridiculous rating of '4.6' or something.) or MRQE. But it is on VHS and DVD, so see it! It stars mostly some actors I don't know, though Marisa Peredes and Joe Strummer (!) are among the more recognizable names in the cast. Set somewhere (everywhere?) in mostly desolate South American locations, we've got a slightly obscure tale of crime and intrigue--art forgery, guns, stolen cars, liquid currencies, a drug cartel. I can't say that I got everything that was happening plotwise. That will come with subsequent viewings, perhaps: I was intoxicated on the dark, lonely l'amour fou on display here, where Ossang has that touch for interiors that makes human dwellings look like insect tunnels, and exteriors that communicate naked, arid expansiveness. (And as if trapped by this life on the ground, the film's end is decidedly "uplifting.") History and geography collapse upon themselves, so that we feel we're watching elements of every decade of the twentieth century (and more than a single continent) adhere together. Who the hell is Elvire, the woman who plays the female lead, Ancetta? (She's great!) Why hasn't this film gained more of a cult following? Fans of Vigo, Feuillade, Ruiz, Hellman, Lynch, and Ferrara (among others) should love this movie ... or at least I would think so.

2 comments:

Jaime said...

Glad to see you're checking out the library's video selection. The Brooklyn library isn't chopped liver either, they have the Korean film OASIS and Charles Burnett's SELMA, LORD SELMA.

Don't forget that you can have videos (and, of course, books and CDs) sent to the branch nearest you - all from the NYPL website. And you can renew items online, too, a blessing (or is it a curse?) for lazy people like me.

I see DOCTEUR CHANCE is on DVD and I've just added it to my Netflix queue.

Zach Campbell said...

Let me know how you like the Ossang. Maybe it can pick up steam and gain the cult following it deserves.

I may have to take advantage of the reserve function with NYPL; it's a mess and hard to find much of anything specific! (For example, I only came across Makavejev's Sweet Movie on the shelves this evening by chance, it wasn't in with the foreign films.) But for a while at least I'm sure I'll content myself with picking up whatever's on shelf ...