101 minutes| France-Germany-Japan| 2001| Colour| Dolby Digital Stereo| 35mm

Denis pushed the elements of desire and physicality that are always present in her work to an all-time extreme in this horror hybrid, which remains her most controversial offering. The figure of the mad scientist whose experiments get out of hand is a familiar genre notion, though Vincent Gallo is hardly your typical man-in-white-coat as his marriage crumbles through fear of passing on the corpuscle-craving contagion lurking within him.

The deadly virus originates with Gallo’s former colleague Alex Descas, whose spouse Beatrice Dalle really does have it bad. Her full-on performance brings an extraordinary feral intensity to the escalating body count, and while the material could be read as an upfront AIDS metaphor, it also sustains a mood of romantic anguish where sexual yearning becomes the stuff of nightmares. Music from Tindersticks applies a rich underlying melancholy as events spiral towards a blood-soaked finale.

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