Parisian murder detective commissioner Pierre Niemans is called to Gueron, a self-sufficient, prestigious university in a mountain valley, to investigate the murder on 32-year old professor...
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Parisian murder detective commissioner Pierre Niemans is called to Gueron, a self-sufficient, prestigious university in a mountain valley, to investigate the murder on 32-year old professor and librarian Rémy Caillois, whose corpse was found 50 meters high on a steep mountain side, naked, horribly covered in bruises and bleeding wounds, the result of some five hours of bestial torture including quasi-surgical amputation of hands cauterized to prevent bleeding to death- and eyes. Guernon is a closed society of virtually incestuous scientists, de facto succeeding to their parents' posts; the eye-doctor, formerly on the staff, says hereditary genetic diseases are the price of such elitism, but in recent years spread to the simple farming families. Inspector Max Kerkerian examines two crimes in the town: a school break-in with theft of old photos and archive papers as well as a graveyard desecration of Judith Herault, the daughter of local nun Andrée, who lives in a dark cell since 15 ... Written by
When I first heard of this movie, I thought: "What an unusual, interesting and poetic title! I wonder what this movie might be all about! It could interest me." Then I saw this absolutely fantastic movie poster, which I still like a lot: a beautiful red - I had to think of the title again! - with the two protagonists in the background and some red blurs (the blood cells, of course, but I didn't know that then).
Then I learned something about the movie's content and thought: "Usually, I don't like serial killer movies at all, because often they're too violent, but that mostly concerns Hollywood movies. So, let's see, what the French made out of it!" Which I did shortly thereafter.
And what shall I say? I really liked the movie, because it was full of suspense. It had two great lead actors: Jean Reno at his best (Watch his face, as he looks at the first corpse!), and a great Vincent Cassel, whom I didn't know before. The two stories in Guernon and Sarzac were well intertwined (save for the end, on which I will comment later on).
The cinematography was overwhelming (for example the shots in the mountains, when Niémans drives to the crime scene in the very beginning, and those, when he and Fanny climb through the snowy mountains before finding the second corpse). And finally the soundtrack by Bruno Coulais was brilliantly adjusted to each scene.
Moreover, I liked the movie for not being too violent. Although the victims were drastically tortured, before they were killed, neither the torture nor the killing is shown. And the violence is not "celebrated", which means it's not shown, as if it were any kind of fun or something the viewer also should do.
Once again: Watch Niémans' face, while he looks at the first corpse; this scene shows clearly what he thinks of the torture and the killing and that it's absolutely barbaric and immoral to do a thing like that. Hollywood movies often don't show that as clearly (e. g.: Is John Doe in David Fincher's absolutely disgusting and way overrated SE7EN not in a way shown as being "sympathetic"?).
Are there any weaknesses in this movie? Yes, of course there are. Firstly, there are the first scenes of the movie, while the credits start: The camera shows a rotting human corpse, which was a) quite disgusting, b) totally unnecessary, and c) in no connection to the movie. Because, of the corpses in LES RIVIÈRES POURPRES not one had the time to rot! (Think about it for thirty seconds - you will see that I'm right!)
And then there's the end of the movie; let's say the last fifteen minutes. I must admit that I didn't really understand it completely, which in other words means that I don't think it's absolutely logical. In my opinion, it's quite stupid and very disappointing compared to everything in the movie that happened before (though I can't and won't tell you about the end in detail here; go see the movie for yourself!).
Shakespeare wrote: "All's well that ends well." Does that mean everything's bad that has a bad end? (And let's face it: The end of LES RIVIÈRES POURPRES can in my opinion only be described as really bad!) The answer is no! Because for 90 of 105 minutes the movie is absolutely great and worth a watch.
Behind BILLY ELLIOT and CHOCOLAT it's my third favourite movie of 2001 so far. And if not for the end, it could have easily taken the first place of this list.
I'd like to rate it an 8, but because of the end I can't. So I rate it a 7. But it's a strong one.
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