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The automation engineer Alain Getty and his beloved wife Bénédicte have just moved to the suburb of Bel-Air. Alain has developed the prototype of a flying web-cam for Pollock S.A., a high-tech company. After a successful presentation of his project to their clients, Alain invites his boss Richard Pollock and his wife Alice for dinner at his home. The couple arrives late, and Alice is extremely rude, insulting her husband and the young couple, and forcing Richard to leave the house earlier. During the night, Alain finds a rare Scandinavian lemming stuck in the siphon of the sink in the kitchen. On the next night, Alice unsuccessfully tries to seduce Alain after-hours in the laboratory of the company. On the next afternoon, she visits Bénédicte to apologize her behavior and cynically tells her sexual harassment to her husband. Then she locks herself in a room and commits suicide. On the next days, Bénédicte changes her behavior and relationship with Alain, seeming to be possessed by ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We need a stronger key motivator, I think, but at least we learn about lemmings
Lemming starts promisingly with the dinner party from hell. A young, much in love couple is preparing dinner for their guests, his boss and the boss' wife. Alain Getty (Laurent Lucas) is the newly hired home automation designer at The Pollack Company. He's smart, decent and good-looking. His wife, Benedicte, is alert, pretty and bright. She cooks. He tastes. They smooch. Then their guests show up. His boss, Richard Pollack (Andre Dussollier), is older, gracious and friendly. Alice Pollack (Charlotte Rampling), grim and puffy-eyed, is something else, from the sunglasses she wears at table to the glass of wine she throws in her husband's face. In between, the young couple hears her accusations of his infidelity. She trains her venom on the young wife as she leaves. On top of all this, the kitchen sink's drain is stopped up with what we later find is a lemming.
So far, so good.
But if we were expecting the clever, unnerving suspense of director Dominik Moll's With A Friend Like Harry from 2000, we're going to be not only disappointed but also surprised at Moll's miscues. The blame must be shared with his co-writer, Gilles Marchand. There simply are no motivations or situations that arise other than what, over and over, Moll and Marchand create out of thin air for us. That is, of course what the movies are all about. But with A Friend Like Harry, all we had to do was accept one unlikely situation...that there might be someone lurking about like Harry. Once we swallowed that hook, we were caught. With that accepted, everything else Moll threw at us was accepted, however unlikely or extreme. With Lemming, there's no first cause that makes sense or is believable. The hook we have to swallow is that Alain's hormone's will respond to the aging stimulus of Mrs. Pollack's unsmiling attempt at seduction, and that Alain's involuntary and momentary arousal makes him just as guilty as if he'd agreed to jump in the sack with her. Alain doesn't agree to do that, regardless of how a few hormones responded, because he honorably loves his wife. Moll needs a motivating cause for what he has in store for us. This isn't believable enough, but Moll doesn't seem to notice. He gives us a director's indulgence. Consequently, everything that follows is a director's indulgence, too.
The first 46 minutes of Lemming, even if not especially engaging, have a nice uneasiness about them, culminating in a genuinely unexpected action. From then on, however, I was never especially engaged in the creepy shenanigans of isolated cabins, dreams, waves of rodents, adultery, the Mini Flying Webcam, hints of the Exorcist, murder and even the origin of lemmus lemmus and how one got stuck in a drain in the south of France. All seemed to be manipulations of a director who, this time, might not have been as smart as he thought he was.
If Moll with his lemming wants to deal in metaphors, perhaps our metaphor should be the last thing we hear...Mama Cass and the rest of the Mamas and the Papas singing Dream a Little Dream of Me. It's a great song but we have it pasted a little pretentiously onto the end of a French psycho thriller. As hard as this is to say, Mama Cass doesn't exactly swing it.
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