Review: ‘American Translation’

Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr's "American Translation" is the kind of disjointed film that gives smutty French art cinema a bad name.

Two sexy, sweaty bodies in search of a narrative, Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s “American Translation” is the kind of disjointed film that gives smutty French art cinema a bad name. With indecently good-looking thesps Pierre Perrier and Lizzie Brochere (who played siblings in Arnold and Barr’s “One to Another”) cast as young lovers, “Translation’s” main narrative drive comes from the fact that he is a compulsive killer, which only gradually dawns on her (but doesn’t scare her away). This theatrical turkey could find some redemption in ancillary if marketed to niche auds looking for subtitled flesh.

Bisexual but monolingual Chris (Perrier) drives around in his camper in search of victims. After he’s fallen for Aurore (Brochere), who has an American dad (Barr), Chris alternates bouts of sex with killing rentboys and strangers. Press notes suggests the pic’s a meditation on Eros and Thanatos, but that’s a bit like a doctoral thesis explaining the Jungian undercurrents in “Sesame Street”; the elements might indeed be there, but no regular viewer is likely to notice. Barr’s cheap-looking, shaky DV lensing is below par, though the actors’ charisma shines through.

American Translation

France

Production

A Zelig Distribution release of a Toloda presentation and production, in association with LCJ Prods., Sama Prods. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced by Pascal Arnold, Jean-Marc Barr, Teddy Vermeulin. Directed by Pascal Arnold, Jean-Marc Barr. Screenplay, Arnold.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Barr; editors, Teddy Vermeulin, Barr; music, Adam Kesher, Fortune, Poni Hoax, Electric Light Orchestra; production designer, Benoit Tetelin; costume designer, Mimi Lempicka. Reviewed at Cameo Ariel, Metz, France, June 26, 2011. (In Edinburgh, Moscow film festivals.) Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Pierre Perrier, Lizzie Brochere, Jean-Marc Barr, Gray Orsatelli, Marc Rioufol, Arthur Harel, Thomas Rouer, Astrid Vermeulin. (French, English dialogue)
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