A stripper is stripped of far more than her clothes in “Body to Body,” a baroque suspenser with a diabolical core. Improbable but tasty proceedings draw on undying love and medical science, with an endearing kid and a cute dog tossed in for good measure. Nifty fest fare with commercial potential, this first feature by the closely-knit tandem of helmer Francois Hanss and writer Arthur-Emmanuel Pierre begins like a nudity-inflected fairy tale but tips into horror.
Clocking in at 17 minutes of oral exposition, the opening voiceover by Laura (Emmanuelle Seigner) is initially worrisome. However, the prolonged narration is justified when it turns out Laura is deaf and the viewer is being made privy to a long letter she’s written to bring her best friend, Doris (Vittoria Scognamiglio), up to date. Laura performed for three years at a cavernous strip club when Marco (Philippe Torreton), a rich landscape architect, abruptly entreated her to move with him to Lyon to start a new life of domestic bliss.
However, the night Laura left the club for good, her car spun out of control and she wound up in a coma, with severe burns. Some 15 operations later, she returns to consciousness to find Marco dutifully visited her throughout her ordeal.
The accident left Laura deaf, so she and Marco communicate via sign language, while enjoying life in their secluded manse. A son, Jeannot (Clement Brilland), is born and their happiness seems complete — until Jeannot’s kindergarten teacher tells Laura the boy still urinates sitting down like a girl, and has made cryptic remarks about his penis falling off.
Concerned, Laura goes to a child psychologist who, when shown a photo of Marco and Jeannot, claims to recognize her husband. Apparently, Marco’s prior career was not landscaping. Confused, Laura digs around, and discovers her husband has both a shattering tragedy in his past and seriously strange ideas about what constitutes a happy family in the present.
Script manages to carve a few original notches on the sturdy trunk of they-think-I’m-nuts heroines and — against the odds — the overall narrative manages to hang together through radical shifts in tone. The role of Laura is a plum for the rarely seen Seigner, and the waif-like Brilland is outstanding as the petrified son. Use of sign language is judicious and adds to the escalating sense of jeopardy.