Half Spirit Catherine Ussel Badfly Philippe Spiter Gil Marc Duret Priest Jacques Fontan Voice of Jimminy Gilles Szafirko
There’s probably a niche for this highly stylized bit of nihilism about a group of characters chasing one another across Europe to their doom, but it won’t be easy to find. Outside of fest circuit, likeliest outlets are mid-night venues catering to desperate college-age celluloid addicts.
Pic begins with Half Spirit (Catherine Ussel) locked in a tiled room writing the story of her life on her own body. “Present” sequences of the film are in monochromatic yellow-gold, while flashbacks are in monochromatic blue. Full color appears briefly, usually when a character is viewing the situation through a video camera.
It turns out that Half Spirit was married to a French cop who kept her handcuffed to the radiator. One day she gets loose and kills him, listening to the voice of Jimminy, a spider who apparently lives inside her head and urges her on. Her path crosses that of Gil (Marc Duret), a small-time drug runner sent to Russia to illegally acquire nuclear material.
Half Spirit chases Gil, who is also pursued by the Priest (Jacques Fontan), a violent thug who works for Gil’s boss. Meanwhile, she is being chased by Badfly (Philippe Spiteri), a computer analyst who becomes unhinged when — for unexplained reasons — his fiancee commits suicide. His reaction is to go around killing women by pushing them from a height. When Half Spirit survives this treatment, he decides to be her protector.
The story doesn’t make much sense, although Half Spirit’s mysterious captivity is resolved at film’s end. Narrative is not the selling point here.
Debut film for helmer Henri Barges, who also wrote, produced, scored and edited, has the texture of a waking dream. There’s an internal logic that just manages to elude the grasp of the viewer. After several years of shorts, commercials and docus, Barges clearly knows his way around a camera, providing arresting imagery for much of the film.
But the oblique narrative and sophomoric philosophizing of Jimminy are likely to limit audience to scant few who will take the film’s statement on the meaninglessness of life as a profound revelation.