movie review: Au Cul du Loup (2012)
Au cul de loup is a Belgian movie that I recently watched as part of a family event. In german the title is ‘Das Haus auf Korsika (the house on Corsica). The french literal translation of the title is ‘at the wolf’s ass’, possibly alluding to the house’s faraway location.
The story revolves around a 30 year old emotionally volatile woman who becomes increasingly unsatisfied with her life when she finds out she has inherited a house on Corsica.
She decides to visit the island, despite her boyfriend’s and family’s desire for her to stay. The house is old and run down, but she falls in love with it and the countryside surrounding it and decides to concentrate all her efforts into renovating it. After a couple of impulsive decisions have been made, her family eventually come around to accepting her decision to stay on the island and building up her new life.
The title itself is an indicator about the general gist of the movie, the direction it takes. It’s like a roadmovie, because a lot of travel to and fro is involved, a lot of movement and nervous energy accompanies the protagonist throughout this movie and filters through to the audience. The scenery is truly beautiful and a stark contrast to the characters, the dialogue, and the emotional trauma surrounding the movie.
The characters are all sterotypes that can be found in numerous other genres, and seem to be thrown together as a background to the heroine and her journey to find herself and her freedom. There’s a downbeat boyfriend who works as a barkeeper and seems to have grown into his role and his life. He’s jealous and moody and seems lazily-happy in his defeatist role. The father of the woman who this film is about is controlling, prone to anger and close-minded, the brother is a good-for-nothing teen, the mother a good, understanding housewife who does not seem to mind her husbands temper. There are also some typical countryside types that are part of the Corsican landscape. The 30 year old waitress-heroine is the most disappointing character of all: she’s not particularly intelligent or witty and seems to just go through life as if in a daze. She’s neither financially nor emotionally autonomous but relies on family, her boyfriend and familiar surroundings to define herself and her life. Granted, until this house comes up, and she is caught in romantic expectations of huge proportions. She expects her new life to just emerge out of the blue, and things to just fall into place. She relies on absolute strangers to help her out (she often needs help) and never seems to fully regain her composure and stability. In the end, she does seem to be more sure in herself, but there’s a strong sense, that she will always lack confidence and the ability to manage her own life. She’s motivated and energetic, but chaotic and passive. To me she is not a particularly courageous character, I don’t have much sympathy for her. However, she seems very realistic.
The island’s romantic setting constrasts with the characters worldiness and their many issues and mistakes. Family relationahips are at the forefront of this drama, an individual’s search for herself, and a certain amount of cross-cultural communication. The relationships are all problematic and their foundations are shattered when one new idea is introduced: to move away from the known wolrd of city life and start anew in the country. How this issue is tackled is also problematic. One example of childish behaviour is the communication between the protagonist and her boyfriend. Apart from not seeming to communicate much at all, the rebellious (*sarcasm) heroine tries to convince her boyfriend to accompany her overseas. When he is unphased by her ideas and her desires, she uses all her wit and guile to change his mind. So what does she, in fact, do: She uses sex to blackmail him into giving in according to the motto: if you don’t do what I want, I will not have sex with you. At first, this tactic seems to work, but then the boyfriend, oh shock, reverts back to his old self and forgets all about his contract with her and she’s back where she started. Noone seems to listen to her and take her seriously. I wonder why.
Then there’s this guy she meets in Corsica, who works locally as a shepherd. He has his own issues, that are briefly looked at. When the woman comes to Corsica she has almost nothing with her and no plan on how to proceed. All of a sudden, she finds herself in the rugged countryside in an old, dilapidated house, exposed to the cold, far away from what she is used to. She is also very much at the mercy of the locals and has to rely on their goodwill to fit in. In theory it’s a romantic notion to be doing something so drastic as to leave the old behind and move towards the new and exciting, to be so utterly spontaneous. It feels great at first, until reality kicks in and one is confronted with one’s tearing emotions and insecurities.
As said earlier, the protagonist is alone in a new place, without the normal amenities of civilised life, without much social interaction. She doesn’t seem well-travelled and is still a bit naive and definitely lonely and scared. She seems overwhelmed by her own feelings and the task she has set out to do. Whereas before she was stuck in a routine in Belgium, now she seems stuck in the outdoors, neither moving forward nor back.
Having nothing much in her inherited house, she is helped (without asking for it) by this supposedly romantic shepherd-figure, who pops out of nowhere and recedes into the distance again. He gives her some basic stuff that is supposed to help with the cold nights in the cottage. She, the starry-eyed heroine almost runs after him straight away, seeking his presence constantly and even puts herself in danger for a bit of human comfort. Her emotions always seem to get the better of her intelligence and self-preservation instinct. She seems to be desperate for human contact. In one scene, which I find particularly disturbing, she has followed the farmer (shepherd) back to his place and has borrowed his jumper because hers has become stained with dirt when she was helping him catch a goat. She says something like ‘I’ll check if my clothes are ready now’ (as they were drying somewhere) and then what does the great hero of the story do: He just puts his great bulky body directly in her path and kisses her without any forewarning. I suppose some folks find that stuff romantic, but I am not one of them. He continues to try and seduce her in his house, and she is clearly distressed, a hundred different things racing through her mind. Then, what does she do? She apologises for her bad conduct, for how dare she say ‘No’ to such a machomanly man. She apologises to him for not letting herself be seduced and fucked by him…It’s not him, it’s her, she’s faulty, it’s all her fault for being so stupid and not being able to have sex with a man she has just met a couple of hours ago and while she’s in a foreign country with a disturbed past and an uncertain future and no family support and a boyfriend…Oh, the poor guy, his blissful evening has been destroyed by such a one as her. What hatred he must feel now, but now he says that it’s all ok, she is allowed to go her way. He won’t rape her today after all, I guess he must be a bit tired himself. What a saintly man to be allowing her to make such a decision, Go saintly man!
I guess it would be easier to take the woman’s side in this, if she wasn’t so damn gullible and wouldn’t latch onto every person she met. She also isn’t really the most trendy or attractive (sorry). She seems to make up for this by letting her breasts nearly hang out of her top at every possible occasion, and I doubt it’s because it’s warm in Corsica. It’s just her style. It’s her thing, no doubt, but it’s not to her advantage to be exposing her private parts like that, bathing nude in the river just because someone suggested it.
Then she runs to her whoring new man, and she’s disappointed that he has a new sweetheart, who must have emerged while she was away back where she came from.
Lastly, I would like to mention the family in this story. They are not the happy family in a fairy tale, but neither have the characters enough depth and emotion to even have problems. They just talk past eachother and ignore eachother, which changes slighlty at the end and leaves a bitter after-taste, because the change just happened without any explanation and happened because of a silly accident. The father has finally come to help his obsessed daughter to renovate, because she lacks both technical knowledge and physical srength to help herself. Fair enough. The brother arrives, too, and starts to enjoy bonding with his father through working at the house. But then new drama enfolds, and it’s all the protagonists fault, because she started all this. Her father suffers a stroke and barely survives, and all she can think of is the house. This goes to show that she’s a troublemaker and that bad things happen, when one follows one’s dreams. A family member could get hurt. It is revealed that the Dad is actually ok with keeping the house after all, he allows the heroine to make her own decisions and she is served his approval after all. So all is good, because everyone is ok in the end.
This is where we, the audeince, are left and the film ends. Nothing more is said about the boyfriend or how the relationship with this shepherd continues, or if the father will fully recover. The audience can decide that for themselves, but unfortunately they cannot rewrite the film. A whole new story and set of characters would have to be created, eventually creating a new film, so editing this one wouldn’t work. One could, perhaps, make a music video out of it. A few scenes in the film lend themselves well to rap or hip hop, perhaps one could mix a bit of folk in because that would suit the landscape.
What worries me most about this film is not its general crappiness, for there are many such films all throughout the virtual world. As a Neutrois (a genderqueer) one has trouble finding any film that hasn’t got some stange characters and is full of stereotypes and things that just don’t fit. I couldn’t think of a movie or TV show that exemplifies gender versatility and acceptance of otherness or does not somehow appropriate someone’s culture.
What worries me is the FSK 6, that it is rated 6+ in my country. That means 6 year olds, especially ones who might be dragged to watch this by their parents or are indoctrinated into the genre of romantic comedy (because it’s so romantic and so funny…yes?) are going to watch gender stereotypes unfold at every new camera shot, are going to watch dysfunctional relationships without really understanding the context (because I doubt they already think like adults), and are also going to watch sex scenes, pornography, and superficialty.
A child may be smart and failry grown up, but a child should not be able to watch trash and pornographic trash at that. Maybe we should call these films something else. Instead of romantic comedy (which this relaly isn’t) let’s call it male-phantasy trash, or a cheap attempt at a light-hearted summer family movie gone horribly wrong, or regurgitated waste material from a production studio.
The only good thing about having seen this film is that I now know how bad it and useless it is. It has no entertainment value, no wit or humour, no characters to marvel at, no story that engulfs you and lets you forget you are sitting in a cheap cinema seat, no speactacular events, no complexity, no depth.
I guess it’s dificult to step out of the mould and create a film that is new, rich, and refreshing in its portrayal of men and women. Let alone a film that includes people who are genderqueer or question anything (gender binary, sexuality, politics, ….). Things are not questioned here, the characters are controlled by life, and do not control their own life. They are passive drifters and I believe will keep on drifting after the film has ended. But why is it so difficult to portray something else? Chefs in fancy restaurants come up with new creations all the time, ad agencies have to find new ways to sell a product and reach new markets, why not film makers? They are the story-tellers, the ones who are able to hold mirrors in front of us and show us who we are and what’s currently wrong with society, they are the artists and can help disseminate new ideas.
Letter to film-makers
Why is it so difficult to make a film that is NOT about stereotypes and weak men and women, and the old conflict between the two? Why do we even need men and women in a film, why is it so important?
In a film, everything is done on purpose, unless it’s an improvised film. The script is there for a purpose and followed by the actors, the places are well-chosen, the costumes for the characters are not just there because they were lying on a street when the film was shot. Nothing is coincidence in a film, that would cost too much money and be a gamble. So why not use your creativity, you directors, and produce something of value? Something that is challenging and new? Aren’t you getting bored of the same old shit or is producing films just about the revenue you will get for churning out something that is easy for common folk (the majority of the population) to watch? Why not be the artists you are? In this industry, in the industry of make-believe and story-telling, you should have the least problems to create new stories and push the boundaries. For when even our dreams, our creativity, illusion, and phantasy is based on regenerating old concepts of gender and culture, that’s when we will start loosing part of our identity and being human. Our ability to dream will be hampered, our minds made stale and unproductive. We won’t become mindless robots through body modifications, but through mental indoctrination and the dullness of our minds. Next time I will go and watch a movie I really want to see, I would like it to be one of yours.