Thursday, 24 January 2013

complices (d. frédéric mermoud, w. mermoud & pascal arnold)

The subject of child abuse and sex rings has been prevalent in the European media over recent months. (Even though this film predates this). Without in any way denying the requirement of society to defend its most innocent and vulnerable citizens, it’s also apparent that the media fascination goes with a  certain prurience. There’s a voyeuristic element to the furore. The pseudo-Foucaultian sex-power matrix generating a neo-pornographic response. No doubt that shrewd reader of the sexual politic, Foucault himself, would have offered an incisive commentary on the contrasting Macalpine and Saville cases.

Mermoud’s film bellyflops into this arena. It tells the story of the murder of Vincent, a 19 year old prostitute who pretends to be underage in order to fulfil the fantasies of his wealthy clients. His life becomes confused when he acquires a girlfriend, Rebecca, with whom he falls in love. Her reaction when he comes clean about his real job (having earlier made the unlikely claim to be working for an estate agents) sets off a chain of events which will end in tragedy.

We know it will end in tragedy because the film opens with Vincent’s body being fished out of the river. The other half of the film follows the investigation of the police into his murder. The mixed-sex police team, Hervé and Karine, enjoy a mildly flirtatious, world-weary relationship which looks like it should go somewhere but never does.

All of the above is all well and good, and the first half hour of the film, with its use of flashback and a brisk editing style, rolls along effectively enough. We assume a narrative connection will evolve between the stories of the police and the young couple. We assume that at a certain point the narrative will take an unexpected turn. We also assume that the scenes of Vincent and Rebecca having sex with unpleasant, seedy men, are there for a reason which is more than merely mundane narrative-filler. The adopted premise implies an examination of the true meaning of corruption, the worm in the apple, the other side of the capitalist tapestry. The film’s insinuating title suggests there must be something more to it than the equivalent of a glossy TV drama episode.

But there isn’t. There’s nothing there. It comes as no surprise to learn that the director has worked mostly in TV. What does come as a surprise is that a script as banal and cynical as this has been feted and given a global release. One suspects the reason is that it is cashing in on a global prurience which would make Michel smile. Complices is the twenty first century equivalent of the Victorian flash of ankle on an expensively printed dirty postcard. 

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