Todd Haynes’ Poison is a conceptually bold, stylistically audacious first feature, a compelling study of different forms of deviance. Point of departure is the works of the late French writer Jean Genet: Our Lady of the Flowers, Miracle of the Rose and Thief’s Journal. Haynes has composed three distinctive stories that constitute case studies of antisocial aberrations, shot them in three strikingly different styles and intercut them in surprisingly successful ways.
Hero takes up the case of a seven-year-old boy who, in blandest suburbia, murders his father. Arguably the weakest of the three story strands, but amusing enough withal, section features straight-on TV documentary-style interviews with the lad’s mother, neighbors, teachers and classmates.
The vastly effective Horror uses a 1950s B-pic sci-fi approach to relate the sad story of a scientist who isolates the source of human sex drive, but, upon drinking the fluid, becomes horribly disfigured and murderous.
A direct representation of the Genet universe, Homo scrutinizes an obsessive relationship between a hardened criminal and a new arrival in a 1940s French prison. A mood of seething, violent homoeroticism permeates the proceedings, as one prisoner stalks another in an episode spiked with multiple glimpses of rear-entry intercourse and one of genital fondling.