The French are at it again. With the rest of the world only just recovered from the pummelling that La Haine dealt out last year, it is now the turn of twentysomething would-be genius Xavier Beauvois to deliver an assault on filmgoing senses.
Benoit (Beauvois), an art history student terrified at the prospect of his mandatory military service, devises a bloody fake suicide attempt to get him off the hook and back to his lectures, but the plan backfires when the army doctor finds him HIV positive.
What follows is Benoit’s fall into the romantic, hell-bent lifestyle he always idolised. Heroine smuggling, robbery and homosexual prostitution all ensue as he embarks on a hedonistic rollercoaster death-ride, which sprawls to his beloved Italyowhere he falls for the enigmatic Claudia (Chiara Mastroianni)oand then on to the killing fields of Bosnia.
Beauvois has made a wonderfully acted film of extremes. The shock factor exposes the depravity and futility of life in the fast lane, epitomised in one hypnotic drug-taking sequence that will raise many a moral eyebrow, while the script is peppered with artistic theories on mortality and providence that breathe new life into the old live-fast-die-young doctrine. A stark and humourless vision that represents an important new voice in French filmmaking. (John Hamilton/Empire) (France, 1995. Subtitled. 118 mins.)