Amiable TV personality-turned-thesp Antoine de Caunes acquits himself with genuine verve in his maiden trip behind the camera with “Love Bites,” in which a man on an obviously unhealthy mission refuses to throw in the towel. Ultra-stylish mix of trendy nightlife, no-nonsense lowlife, and people and animals that bite benefits from thoughtful lensing and gobs of convincing nocturnal atmosphere. Result should sink its fangs into international horror fests.
First hour is especially strong, with an unsettling atmosphere established from the initial frames. Pic revolves around resourceful moocher Antoine (Guillaume Canet), a twentysomething whose only “home” is a locker at a health club where a pal lets him sleep on a chaise lounge by the pool.
After an entertaining start in which Antoine outsmarts the ferocious bouncer at an exclusive club, Antoine gets a tip from his older buddy, Etienne (Gerard Lanvin), about a party worth crashing. Stopped by security at the super-ritzy Paris function, Antoine rashly claims that “Jordan” invited him.
Although Antoine can’t describe Jordan, the staff receives word to let him enter. Antoine is hauled off to meet his wealthy old-world host, Von Bulow (Jean-Marie Winling), who is extremely intent on meeting the elusive Jordan.
Antoine confesses that he doesn’t know the first thing about Jordan, except that he lives by night. Despite Antoine’s protests, Von Bulow offers him 1 million francs ($137,000) — half of it up front — to lead him to Jordan. Pic’s deft juggling of the harmless and the sinister persists as Antoine asks Etienne for help tracking down Jordan.
Antoine is adept at gate crashing but, when it comes to Jordan and his creepily enticing sister, Violaine (Asia Argento), he may be trying to crash the gates of hell. Buying information with his crisp new bankroll, Antoine has one violent, unpleasant experience after another, en route to a genre cocktail of a climax.
A game stab at blending film noir, comedy and high Goth, pic unquestionably demonstrates the talent of all involved. But it’s also so utterly now that it may age poorly. Thesps are fun to watch across the board. Intelligent use of expressively lit widescreen socks across atmosphere to burn. Score is smoothly integrated and mercifully free of the techno banalities one might expect given the settings.