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Calvaire Review

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Marc Stevens (Lucas) is a flamboyant Belgian entertainer who tours old people’s homes crooning kitsch classics for randy old ladies. On his way to a wedding reception he breaks down in a rural backwater; he is taken in by a seemingly friendly farmer who s

★★★★★

Though it shares some DNA with rape shocker Irreversible — the same key cast members, cinematographer and a dark take on humanity — Fabrice Du Welz’s bleak comedy is slightly easier to take. Leavened with a firm sense of the absurd, Calvaire is a blood-soaked Gothic fantasy that uses the grotesque rather than the gross to assault its audience.

Key to its effect is the central performance by Laurent Lucas, whose deadpan style gives the opening scenes an eerie impact. Although the screen will soon erupt with violence, it’s these moments that linger longest in the mind as Lucas’ luckless singer is eyed with feeble lust by sagging OAPs and groped by their lonely carers.

After his car breaks down, however, the story takes on a more familiar shape, folding Misery into Deliverance when Marc realises that not only is he at the mercy of his insane benefactor, he is surrounded by a village of inbred crazies. Du Welz takes perverse pleasure in the extremity of this situation, leading to some unexpected laughs. Sadly, though, Calvaire falls flat in the final reel, with a messy chase sequence and an almost half-hearted recourse to religious imagery.

A black comedy with flashes of genius, but let down by a sharp slide into chaos.

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