Synopsis: One night, a morgue employee named Ben meets, under the strangest circumstances, Teresa, a young woman who has overdosed on Ecstasy at a rave. Following this sensational beginning, Teresa and Ben embark on an odyssey that takes them into the world of sadomasochism, wild techno dance parties, and orgies as they search for new sensations that will ease their chilling sense of despair.
Starring Elodie Bouchez (The Dreamlife Of Angels, Wild Reeds) and Jean-Marc Barr (Dancer In The Dark, Breaking The Waves, The Big Blue, this provocative, disturbing film will challenge your sensibilities in much the same way as Eyes Wide Shut, Crash, Breaking The Waves and Tokyo Decadence.
eyelights: its philosphical musings about sex, love and the meaning of life.
eyesores: Gilles/Ducon. its nihilistic tone. its BDSM theme.
“I got involved in your life, now take a look at mine.”
Ben and his friends are nihilists who work in a mortuary. Unable to feel love, they only feel alive through extreme sex, indulging in BDSM parties both at home and in clubs. One day, a 19-year-old ecstasy victim lands on Ben’s slab after dying at a rave. Entranced by her, he returns later to give her another look. And then feels compelled to have sex with her corpse.
Except that she isn’t dead. Not quite.
In fact, the doctor who did the post mortem made an error in his assessment and she was still alive. But her sudden reanimation puts Ben in a panic, alerting his colleagues and, inevitably, the administration. Thus he is suspended from his job, following a severe investigation – that landed no charges seeing as neither the girl nor her parents decided no to press any.
Instead, the conflicted father is thankful that his daughter was revived (although he is upset about the method used) and the girl, Teresa, becomes curious about Ben – at first thinking she owes him his life. Soon she begins to wonder what kind of man her saviour is and how sex with him could possibly have brought her back. So she begins to spend a lot of time with him.
And thus she is introduced to his sex parties, which at first she finds distasteful, but becomes more interested in with time as she starts to see that Ben, for all his cold demeanour and sometimes strange behaviour, is well-meaning. It’s after seeing him save the life of a young man intent on jumping from a bridge that she decides that there may be more to him after all.
There is a very real, very hurt, human behind the armour.
What she doesn’t understand is that nothing can soothe his aching soul, that no amount of thrills, partying, and sex can help him adjust to the impending AIDS death of Nico, one of his best friends, or to the stifling bonds he once had with his spouse. It will be too late for her to make this realization, after one final sex party at his house gets completely out of hand.
‘J’aimerais pas crever un dimanche’ is a movie that I knew very little about when I rented it from my local video store. The box art suggested something sexy, and Élodie Bouchez’s involvement only seemed to reinforce this notion. But I knew nothing else about it so I went in with a relatively unbiased opinion. Surprisingly, I wasn’t upset by any of it, despite it shocking context.
If anything, I found the characters’ various musings on sex, love and the meaning of life rather intriguing and eloquently articulated, if pessimistic. I could totally understand how people could feel that it’s pointless to collect a lifetime of memories (as Nico reflect towards the end), or how Teresa came to the conclusion that she had been alive but hadn’t truly realized it.
There was one particularly notable speech when Ben and his friends go to a BDSM club and the host, a skinny, pale, bald man wearing only black pants, takes the stage to explain their nihilistic philosophy. I got the impression that it was intended to be the filmmaker’s message to the audience, or at the very least his perception of the BDSM subculture’s credo. Interesting.
Maybe it’s just me, but watching ‘J’aimerais pas crever un dimanche’ made me think that it was sort of a French ‘Crash’, which David Cronenberg had released in 1996, two years prior. Admittedly, it has been a long time (nearly two decades) since I’ve seen the latter, but these broken people using non-mainstream sex as a form of therapy seemed familiar and similar somewhat.
The main difference is that I felt really gross, creeped out, even, after seeing Cronenberg’s award-winner (hence why I never saw it again), but not so with this film. Perhaps I’ve become jaded over time, perhaps kinky stuff doesn’t affect me as much as it once did, or maybe ‘Crash’ was infinitely grimier and more nihilistic. Still, I’d watch this anytime before watching ‘Crash’ again.
The only thing I didn’t like about this picture was the character of the jumper, Ducon, who is far too manic for my taste. Perhaps it was just the performance by Martin Petit-Guyot, or perhaps he was intended to be comic relief (although that seems odd in such a dismal film), but his energy grated on my nerves – it was too much of a contrast with the other characters.
But, all told, I found ‘J’aimerais pas crever un dimanche’ captivating, if not entirely compelling. It burrows deep into the psyche of a handful of nihilists posing as hedonists in order to distract themselves from the hole in their souls. It’s not light viewing, but it certainly makes an impression. And, with the right crowd, it could also generate some interesting discussions.
Date of viewing: April 17/16