by Thom Ernst Thursday September 11, 2008


Each year a new engines and crystal display.

After my disappointment over not getting into THE WRESTLER (I'm told by those who did get in that it's the best movie at the festival - SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is running a close second) I arrived early for the much touted JCVD. I was second in line. Despite a good buzz, the screening still had seats...not many, but they were there.

I'm not sure what I expected to see with JCVD - a spectacular flashy action flick based on Jean-Claude Van Damme's image and career. Instead JCVD is a funny, thoughtful, unexpectedly arty film about the actor as the actor, dealing with a career and image of making cheap, unrepentantly bad (maybe even immoral) action quickies. It's the most brilliant send up of celebrity since BEING JOHN MALKOVICH.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in JCVD

What is likely gaining all the hype for the film is just how good of an actor Jean-Claude Van Damme is. He delivers a moving, gaspingly effective soliloquy straight to camera that is as good as anything ever filmed by an actor. The muscle from Brussels can act.

The movie is neither as funny nor flashy as you might think. It's shot in a sort of pre-Bourne Ultimatum Paul Greengrass fashion with much of the colour washed out. And the action, save for a very entertaining and amusing opening sequence, is absent.

I had a roommate once (who also worked at the festival) who used to call him Jean-Claude Van Calm Head. It's a funny moniker and appropriate for the type of movies he makes. I wonder what my ex-roomie would have to say about Jean-Claude in this film. Would he rethink his name calling?


Also saw PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE (Part One) starring Vincent Cassel. I never knew Cassel is practically considered a movie idol in France. It makes me think of that brief period after THE FLY when Jeff Goldblum became a sex symbol. I like Cassel enough as an actor. He nearly took EASTERN PROMISES away from Viggo Mortensen. In PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE he carries the film as French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Unlike JCVD, this movie is flashy and bright (wonderfully photographed by Robert Gantz) but suffers somewhat from the limitations of a biopic. Yes, there is a Part Two on its way (already shot and in the can) so I reserve full opinion until then.



Yves-Étienne Massicotte, of TFO's Cinéclub, who was invaluable in helping me meet producer Barbet Schroeder and famed French actress, Isabelle Huppert.

"If it wasn't for you bringing him to America he'd [director John Woo] still be shooting pigeons in Hong Kong," thug to Jean-Claude Van Damme in JCVD.