Aug 25, 2017

Our Lady of Hormones (Bertrand Mandico, 2015)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼ 

'Conjuring up the combined memories' of several films (such as Wilder's masterpiece Sunset Boulevard) that deal with 'the twilight of an actress or artistic menopause', as Mandico himself puts it, this French auteur delivers a half-hour tour de force of bizarre neo-surrealism, disturbing eroticism and Nouvelle Vague homages.

Out Lady of Hormones (originally, Notre-Dame des Hormones) recounts the extremely vivid and not to mention unapologetically eccentric tale of rivalry, jealousy, primeval desires and human inability to domesticate the basic impulses. Two actresses portrayed with wicked glee and self-deprecating humor by Elina Löwensohn and Nathalie Richard roam a magical forest, rehearsing a play which involves aged Oedipus sporting elongated nipples (no joke). After they discover a hairy and amorphous creature adorned with a phallic excrescence (and making the console from eXistenZ look cute in comparison), they become entrapped in the endless cycle of mutual distrust, murder and miraculous resurrection.

As Löwensohn and Richard have a whale of a time bringing their zany characters to fantastical life and pulling the viewer into their burlesque realm, we are treated to the arresting visuals drenched in sultry purples and captured on 16mm tape which lends the picture a soft 'patina'. The exquisite costume and production design, coupled with quaint, yet oh-so refreshing practical effects, provide plenty of succulent eye-candy and quite a unique viewing experience, despite the myriad of fine art and cinematic influences, from Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs to Harry Kümel's Daughters of Darkness.

To paraphrase my comment on Mubi where this avant-garde fantasy is currently playing, it feels like Guy Maddin meets David Cronenberg at his peak in a phantasmagoric world ruled by That Obscure Object of Desire which shares the perverse mindset of Alain Robbe-Grillet and has Jean Cocteau's holy saliva smeared all over it. Genre-defying and 'very French', Our Lady of Hormones displays 'the dignified decadence' of a bygone era, establishing a dreamlike or rather, nightmarish atmosphere of sourly sweet nostalgia.

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