Dead Already

Romain Romain Duris

Romain Romain Duris

David Benoit Magimel

Laure Zoe Felix

Andrea Clement Sibony

Alain Isaac Sharry

Mallo Carlo Brandt

The tricky balancing act between being old enough to do what one pleases and old enough to know better is explored with razzle-dazzle technical prowess and two-ton earnestness in “Dead Already.” This unrelentingly intense tale of three 20-year-old guys and the young woman they help to embark on a hardcore porn career plays like a contempo “Boogie Nights” but without the humor or intimation of second chances. Viewers in the mood for this much Euro-angst will be hard to come by outside the fest circuit, but there’s no mistaking the presence here of plenty of raw acting talent worth keeping an eye on.

A nerdy 20-year-old who races Go-Karts, Andrea (Clement Sibony, in a touching perf), meets rich brats David (Benoit Magimel) and Romain (Romain Duris) at the track where they’re taking photos of an attractive, topless young woman. When Andrea learns the duo are starting a specialized photo agency in Nice, a couple of hours’ drive away, it’s his excuse to come on to fellow local, Laure (Zoe Felix).

A self-possessed young woman who lives alone, Laure has already posed topless for a phone-sex poster and has no hang-ups about “moving up” in the world of porn. She narrates the story, told in flashback, which spans April 20-July 14, and starts and winds up with a Bastille Day bang.

Despite the sunshine, sports cars and swimming pools, a feeling of pre-ordained doom hangs over the proceedings: Drugs, alcohol and eventually guns enter the picture. David and his pals have the run of his enormous family mansion while his folks are off in Montreal making money. Andrea and Laure chastely move in, but David is soon introducing her to international porn mogul Mallo (majestically seamy Carlo Brandt), who requires a hardcore audition on camera, on the spot. Matters escalate from there.

A film noir drenched in balmy days and disco nights in Nice, the widescreen pic, which is lensed with bravado, is both glossy and sordid at the same time. The need to belong and the desire to make heroic gestures are played to the hilt. Although it’s not news, pic convincingly illustrates its theme that silver-spoon kids can be every bit as messed up as those with no material advantages. Helmer-co-scripter Olivier Dahan (“Brothers: Red Roulette”), who honed his chops on video clips, acknowledges present pic’s debt to “Rebel Without a Cause” and Bret Easton Ellis’ novel “Less Than Zero.”

With his dreamy features and flaxen hair, David is literally a golden boy, and Magimel conveys the discomfort of a bright lad blessed with aristocratic charm who knows he should be in law school but is drawn to breaking the law instead. Felix, who’s a less leggy and marginally coarser Liv Tyler type, makes an arresting film debut as the slinky, quietly ambitious Laure, whose body and destiny are her own. All lead thesps generate compelling chemistry.

Bruno Coulais, who created the award-winning score to “Microcosmos” and recently composed a striking score for “Don Juan,” proves less engaging here. Source music complements the action, with Nina Simone’s 1968 rendition of “Take Care of Business” put to unusual use.

Dead Already

(DRAMA -- FRENCH)

Production: A UFD release (in France) of an Iris Films, France 3 Cinema, UGC Images production, with participation of Canal Plus and CNC. (International sales: UGC Intl., Paris.) Produced by Yves Attal, Romand Bremond. Directed by Olivier Dahan. Screenplay, Dahan, Olivier Massart.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Pierre David; editor, Juliette Welfling; music, Bruno Coulais; art director, Santiago Isidro-Pin; costume designer, Gigi Lepage; sound (Dolby Digital), Jean-Paul Hurier; assistant director, Mathias Honore; casting, Jeanne Biras, Philippe Sol. Reviewed at UGC screening room, Paris, April 15, 1998. Running time: 107 MIN.

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