Shy loser Diego wakes up after an accident and has been transformed into Tony T. a smooth-talking no-holds-barred stuntman. Suffering from a case of Frontal Syndrome he's the perfect ...
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Dirk van Dijck
Shy loser Diego wakes up after an accident and has been transformed into Tony T. a smooth-talking no-holds-barred stuntman. Suffering from a case of Frontal Syndrome he's the perfect case-study for young neurologist Jaana. Everyone hopes that Diego will soon recover, accept for Diego himself. Written by
Can Tony T. Forget Timid Diego Ever Existed and Find True Happiness ?
Exciting new film-making talent Pieter Van Hees fulfills and surpasses the expectations raised by his sensational feature debut LINKEROEVER. Advance information had caused a flurry of raised eye-brows however. A dark farce starring controversial Flemish stand-up comedian and TV personality Wim Helsen ? Would Helsen just extend his nerdy small screen persona to fit the multiplex or was there really a whole other side to him he and Van Hees could catch us off guard with ? Tantalizingly, the answer's a bit of both
Doormat to his stuntman brother Cisse (Robbie Cleiren with a fearlessly dumb two-tone hair-do), for whom he engineers the death-defying logistics that allow him to shine as daredevil on a local cop show, painfully shy Diego (Helsen) finds himself pressed into duty when his sibling winds up with a broken arm. Jumping out of a third story window at the wrong moment, he misses his mark and lands on his head, passing out and rushed to the emergency room. Regaining consciousness, he doesn't seem to have suffered much from the fall but claims he feels "sexy" and demands being called Tony T. Respected brain surgeon David Vandewoestijne (angular Peter Van den Begin, oozing subtle menace) and his fawning grad student Jaana (lovely Kristine Van Pellicom) suspect that Diego may be suffering from frontal lobe syndrome where a blow to the head can radically alter someone's personality a genuine affliction, by the way and urge him to take further tests in preparation for what they consider an inevitable operation that would "restore" him to his former self.
Rampaging his way to the top of the stunt-performing profession as well as eclipsing his brother's womanizing skills, Tony T. hardly wants to go back to being mild-mannered Diego, the guy everyone loves to ignore. Still, Jaana has caught his eye and if she wants to hang out and study his behavior, that's fine by him. Family and friends start seeing him in a whole new light, and in a sly fashion that's just what Van Hees has accomplished with Helsen, responding with initial delight turned sour when they realize they can't push formerly meek Diego around anymore. Is the director perhaps offering a dark yet truthful comment on how people seek to idolize certain personalities in media or world politics but, once established, can't wait to tarnish those same self-created icons ? The unlikely yet oddly persuasive romance that grows between Tony and the conflicted Jaana, torn between what the medical community considers Diego's best interests and the man she's falling for, might just prove to be this year's sucker punch love story. The disco sequence where Jaana first discovers her attraction to Tony, only to be cut off at the knees because of his unintentionally withering response (which I will let you find out for yourselves but, trust me, it's a classic), all set to Spanish girl group Paradisio's insanely infectious Bailando, consolidates the young director's unerring eye (and ear) for pure cinema that grabs hold of an audience on both the aesthetic and emotional level.
Shot in a coarse, grainy fashion punched up by the primary colors of Tony's bold outfits by stalwart DoP Jan Vancaillie, who did a similarly splendid if stylistically entirely different job on Frank Van Passel's underrated VILLA DES ROSES, DIRTY MIND defiantly dares viewers to re-evaluate their concepts of taste and beauty, uncovering unexpected warmth beneath its gaudy exterior. The second installment in a proposed trilogy of love and pain, its concluding chapter currently tentatively titled WASTELAND as of this writing, this is as eloquent an exploration of the human condition as my country's cinema has yielded of late. Van Hees' screenplay is both literate and compassionate, frequently funny yet tinged with tragedy as characters attempt to combat loneliness and encroaching alienation in apparently absurd ways, and the cast mostly familiar from extensive TV work handles each line and nuance perfectly. Helsen may be the star attraction, and he's absolutely perfect in the (double ?) role, but this is far from a one man show. The previously underwhelming Van Pellicom, who I was unfortunately most familiar with from Paul Cox' disastrous geriatric romance INNOCENCE where she portrayed the younger version of the dreary heroine in clumsy flashback footage, really lights up the screen and always welcome character actress Sien Eggers delivers a heartbreaking turn as Diego's long-suffering mother whose comment to Jaana at the graveyard, responding to the girl's comment on how you can be perfectly happy living on your own, perfectly encapsulates the film's theme and presumably Van Hees' personally held ideology.
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