Sunday, May 17, 2009

JCVD - The harsh truth of the camera eye

Policier: Central to Unit 27. Jean-Claude Van Damme's robbing a post office. I need back-up.

I thought JCVD was going to be a post-modern comedy in which Jean Claude Van Damme, the Muscles from Brussels, star of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, spawner of bizarre-o zen epithets, serial husband, tax evader and general 80s wash-up, would satirise himself for my amusement.

Not so my friends.

The only funny thing about self-described comedy JCVD is the name of the Director of Photography, Pierre-Yves Bastard, and the opening studio logo animation.

JCVD is, in fact, one of the most sinister movies I have ever seen. Jean Claude Van Damme plays an exaggerated version of himself as a pimped out washed up actor desperate for cash. He's caught in a bank heist, but the cops think he's responsible. And all the while, the grainy, grimy action footage is interspersed with surreal flashbacks to court hearings and a much-lauded straight to camera confessional that's wince-inducingly embarrassing.

Some people have dared to praise Jean Claude's acting chops in this movie. I can't quite agree. This is no WRESTLER. All I can do is admire his courage in acting in such a raw film. Which is not to deny the fact that I found this movie incredibly difficult to watch and not wholly successful either as poignant satire or as post-modern heist.

JCVD was released in France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Turkey and Spain in 2008. It also played Toronto and Rome. It opened in Japan, Sweden and the UK earlier this year and is also available on DVD.

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