Paris 1958. "Existentialist" crimes are being committed in the eighteenth arrondissement of Paris. Who is this serial killer who dares call himself a... poet? Could it be Joseph, whom everybody in Pigalle knows as Loulou ? That is at least what he accuses himself of. But who on earth could picture him as the monstrous killer ?... Written by
A Place Among the Living brings together an unusual mix of influences. Raoul Ruiz sets this noirish film in 1950s Paris where trench coat wearing writers meet with garrulous murderers in baroque night clubs in between parties featuring intellectuals discussing Existentialism and politics. Particularly jarring is the use of noirish lighting/atmosphere in palatial dwellings; it's a heady mix of high and low made all the more discordant by Ruiz's standard visual reliance on dutch angles and whirling tracking shots.
Also typical of Ruiz is a plot which is hard to follow; various characters come and go with very little introduction only to show up again later with some important role to play. At the same time everything is so playful that it's hard to take seriously, especially considering that one of the main characters is a writer who is making the things that are happening to him the basis for his new novel. There's also quite a lot of talk about why exactly the murders are being committed; it seems to have something to do with an obscure issue of a softcore porn magazine.
The problem with the film is that after it creates its set up it sort of spins its wheels as the plot grows increasingly complex and distant. The use of random murders is a device that Ruiz has now employed a few too many times in films as diverse as That Day, Genealogy of a Crime, and The Golden Boat. So basically the only thing that really stands out about this film is the oddball combination of aesthetic elements and the often humorous references to 1950s French Intellectual culture. This is a minor but interesting work from Ruiz.
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