Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidoq (a.k.a. "Vidoc."

Georgie came across this curious film in the library catalog, and we brought the DVD home to check it out. The 2002 film stars Girard Depardieu as Vidoc, the Nineteenth Century French criminal turned policeman. The film is set in 1830, after Vidoq has been dismissed from his position as first Director of the Surete National, and become one of the first private investigators. He has apparently met his match in the mirror-masked "Alchemist", a phantom figure who haunts the Parisian slums. Having caught up with the criminal, after a spectacular singlestick battle, Vidoq takes a deadly fall into the furnace of a glassworks. The story is played out partly in flashbacks and partly as his "offical biographer" Etienne Boisset (Guillaume Canet) attempts to reconstruct Vidoq's investigations, with the help of Vidoq's detective partner, Nimier (Moussa Maaskri) and a beautiful exotic dancer, Preah (Ines Sastre).

The film was nominated for and won numerous European fantasy film awards, largely for special effects and design, which are striking. "Real" sets are excellently chosen, from the squalid slums to the eerie attics of a grand hotel. Some of the flashback scenes on the other hand, have an other-worldly effect, such as the recounting of the murders done with the alchemist's lighting weapon. The alchemist's lair sports a wonderful "mad lab" where he distills his potions, and Vidoq's prototypical forensic laboratory is good, too. There is a recurring theme of overhead shots of the characters against elaborate floors that make them look like pieces in a complicated game.

Since it is an action-adventure movie, the acting is not wonderful, although the decadent plot is nicely convoluted and kept me guessing.

One caution: the DVD's English soundtrack is dreadful. It is badly dubbed in plain American accent and idiom with voices that clearly do not match the actor's physical types. If I were to watch it again, I would turn on the French voice track and use the English subtitles.

Fun for adults: the disturbing violence and subplot involving child abuse make it not suitable for children.
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