Who Killed Bambi?

Single-mindedly calculated to deliver creepy chills, the hospital-set suspenser "Who Killed Bambi?" delivers only annoyance and impatience. Designed in Hollywood thriller mode, this first feature by Gilles Marchand, tries like mad to get under the viewer's skin in its portrayal of gross medical malfescence, but never gets beyond recycling stale genre tricks and obvious characters.

With:
Dr. Philipp - Laurent Lucas Isabelle (Bambi) - Sophie Quinton Veronique - Catherine Jacob Sami - Yasmine Belmadi

Single-mindedly calculated to deliver creepy chills, the hospital-set suspenser “Who Killed Bambi?” delivers only annoyance and impatience. Designed in Hollywood thriller mode under the prominently credited influence of “With a Friend Like Harry” helmer Dominik Moll, this first feature by Gilles Marchand, who worked as scripter and technical consultant for both Moll and Laurent Cantet, tries like mad to get under the viewer’s skin in its portrayal of gross medical malfescence, but never gets beyond recycling stale genre tricks and obvious characters. Though made in ultra-slick commercial style, pic doesn’t look like a promising B.O. item, at least outside France.

No doubt cast partly for her fresh, open face and large, deer-like eyes, newcomer Sophie Quinton plays Isabelle, a nursing student doing residency at a modern, proper-looking hospital where her older cousin Veronique (Catherine Jacob) works. Unhelpfully, given the potential rigors of her intended profession, Sophie is given to dizzy spells and faints dead away during her first assignment in surgery.

One of the facility’s stars is surgeon Dr. Philipps (Laurent Lucas), whose frosty handsomeness and emotional blankness signals him as the piece’s villain from the get-go. Although the full extent of the doctor’s nefarious activities isn’t explicitly shown until late in the game, his ghastly abuse of his young female patients is suggested clearly enough via scenes of his injecting them with sedatives and fondling their nude bodies.

Annoying Isabelle from the outset by dubbing her Bambi, Philipps is eventually called upon to literally get inside her head by operating to cure her dizzy-making condition. Beginning to suspect the worst after one femme patient mysteriously disappears and a vial of anaesthetic is diluted, Isabelle puts herself on a collision course with her superior by openly accusing him to hospital authorities, resulting in some conspicuously unthrilling and unconvincing cat-and-mouse in the over-extended roll-up to a so-what ending.

Hospital setting provides an effective world-apart feel that’s abetted by the cool whites and blues of the interiors and the immaculate framings of lenser Pierre Milon. But the strategies employed to crank up suspense via “surprise” apparitions and disappearances degenerate into near-parody by the end, when two characters pop up out of nowhere in a park, and the cloak of quiet that surrounds the hospital has a numbing effect that Philipps’ dastardly acts are meant to punctuate but don’t.

With pleasing if not alluring looks, Quinton makes Isabelle sympathetic but not deeply engaging as a central character. Lucas is a one-dimensional bad guy, while secondary figures of Veronique and Isabelle’s puppydog of a boyfriend are uninteresting.

Score by five different composers alternates techno with plaintive strings, while other tech credits are sleek.

Who Killed Bambi?

Out of Competition / France

Production: A Haut et Court release (in France) of a Haut et Court and M6 Films co-production with M6, Canal+, Centre National de la Cinematographie, in association with Sofica Sofinergie 5 and Sofica Sogecinema, with the support of La Region Centre and L'Atelier de Production Centre Val de Loire. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta. Directed by Gilles Marchand. Screenplay, Marchand, Vincent Dietschy.

Crew: Camera (color), Pierre Milon; editor, Robin Campillo; music, Doc Mateo, Alex Beaupain, Lily Margot, Francois Eudes; music at party, Carlos Dalton; production designer, Laurent Deroo; costume designers, Virginie Montel, Isabelle Pannetier; sound, Frederic Ullman; technical consultant, Dominik Moll; assistant director, Rafaele Ravinet-Virbel; casting, Richard Rousseau, Constance Demontoy. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (non-competing), May 17, 2003. Running time: 126 MIN.

With: Dr. Philipp - Laurent Lucas Isabelle (Bambi) - Sophie Quinton Veronique - Catherine Jacob Sami - Yasmine Belmadi

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