Lot 47 Films released this French thriller for a week-long awards-qualifying engagement, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what kind of awards the distributor thought it had a shot at winning. Not that Claire Denis’ film is without merit; this take on the oft-used subject of vampirism is undeniably intriguing–and not necessarily because of the graphic sexual and violent content. Vincent Gallo and Tricia Vessey play American newlyweds on honeymoon in Paris, where Gallo seeks out a doctor (Alex Descas) whose wife (Béatrice Dalle) is stricken with the same condition: an insatiable sexual appetite that gives way to a ravenous bloodlust while in the heat of passion.
How and why did these people become stricken with such an (for lack of a better term) ailment? Denis and co-writer Jean-Pol Fargeau attempt some explanation (something to do with a plant during some sort of expedition in Africa), but never to any satisfactory degree. Denis probably shouldn’t have bothered, for if the deliberate pacing, cinematographer Agnès Godard’s lush visuals, and Tindersticks’ terrifically moody score are any indication, she is obviously more concerned with immersing the viewer in the dark, erotic atmosphere. As palpable as the atmosphere is, had the film boasted a clearer, more memorable story and performances that were a step above adequate, the creepiness wouldn’t have simply lingered with the viewer, it would have gotten under their skin.