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Roselyne et les Lions Review

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A dreamy student called Thierry (Sandoz) abandons his studies to take up an apprenticeship as a lion-tamer and meets the like-minded Roselyne (Pasco). They, of course, fall in love and raise a litter of performing felines.

★★★★★

The hip romantic thriller Diva remains one of the delights of the decade, notwithstanding the craze for hi-tech pulp that followed in its wake. Beneath its superficial chic a real wit and inventiveness were at work, and talk of director Jean-Jacques Beineix’s “promise” seemed merely impertinent. In the seven years that separate that film from this new one, things have gone a little awry. The Moon In The Gutter was an art-house turkey, while Betty Blue seemed to many a slight, shallow tale of amour fou.

This latter will doubtless be an unpopular judgement, and its cult status suggests that the director still commands a decent following. But what they will make of Roselyne Et Les Lions is anyone’s guess. If Beineix intended it as something more than a starring vehicle for his girlfriend Isabelle Pasco, what deeper purpose he had in mind is not easy to deduce.

The plot is a simple one and only veers away from the circus repetition when it draws in a suicidal tiger tamer for no apparent reason. Throughout you wonder what kinks and curves Beineix might insert to break up the film’s tameness. Will he try to make some humanist point about lions banged up in cages and forced to jump through flaming hoops? Will one of the tamers end up on the lion’s menu? Yet as the film winds its way very slowly through its two and a quarter hours, it gradually dawns that Beineix is giving us the circus stuff absolutely straight - we’re meant to applaud and waggle our paws in the air.

In the absence of anything that might pass for drama, your attention wanes and you drift off pondering questions like: how much did it cost to insure Isabelle Pasco?

It's impossible to get inside the head of Bieneix at the best of times, but when he makes a one-trick pony like this, why try?

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