With “Pandora’s Beauty,” Quebec helmer Charles Biname completes the trilogy of urban-angst pics begun with “Eldorado” and hot fest title “Le coeur au poing.” Unfortunately, final pic in the cycle is also the least captivating. The tale of a man whose life is shattered by an encounter with a beautiful, mysterious woman often looks great, but the themes are treated without subtlety and the drama is sorely lacking emotional resonance. “Pandora’s Beauty” will score modest results on its home turf and could snare some fest berths. Pic was launched Feb. 18 on three screens in Montreal and garnered only so-so results on its opening weekend.
As a favor to his business partner, Vincent (Jean-Francois Casabonne) meets with Pandore (Pascale Bussieres) at the Montreal port and, before you can mutter “watch out for dangerous strangers named Pandora,” the two are getting steamy at a nearby hotel. Things soon turn sour for Vincent when he learns of Pandore’s dark secret, which could prove deadly. His wife walks out when she learns of the affair, and soon he’s finding it nearly impossible to focus on work.
Script by Biname and novelist Suzanne Jacob adds little to the well-worn myth of the alluring seductress who uses her charms to destroy men’s lives. In spite of the hip, urban feel of the film, the theme remains dated and more than a little hackneyed, and pic has trouble developing any nuance. For example, the contrast between the sexy but troubled Pandore and Vincent’s dull businesswoman wife, Ariane (Maude Guerin), comes across as too much of a black-and-white dichotomy.
This lack of complexity doesn’t make it easy for the thesps. Casabonne does an OK job of capturing the feel of a guy in full emotional-crisis mode, but Bussieres isn’t able to do much with a role that is more a symbol than a flesh-and-blood character. Some of the supporting players show promise, most notably Pascale Montpetit as the secretary at Vincent’s office, but script fails to develop these secondary characters in any meaningful way.
Talented lenser Pierre Gill shows his usual visual smarts with eloquent images of the Plateau Mont-Royal area of downtown Montreal, Michel Arcand’s editing is top-notch, and catchy electro-flavored score from Francois Bruneau and Jean-Marc Pisapia is used to good effect.