Monday, August 6, 2018


Clara, poor, serious and skilled, wins the audition to be a rich woman's nanny when the latter's baby comes along. Meantime, would she mind hanging around to cook, shop and bear with? She moves in, finds her new employer a lot less privileged than she seemed, getting shunned by friends in boutiques and drinking alone like a teenager heading for a crash. Also, Ana, the rich one, sleepwalks. Not just to the fridge at midnight but into town to hunt for blood. Also, the two of them spark up a physical bond that soon turns to solid love. So, when the baby starts coming out - which might not be a baby at all according to Ana (who had consensual sex with what she doesn't realise was a werewolf) - Ana, Clara and we are in for a shock.

This tale of love across the barrier of death, and of a commitment to responsibility makes pointed use of the blend of a motherhood story and outright horror. Pointed because we are left in no doubt of Clara's sense of duty until the inevitable challenge to it forces her either way. If anything the mixing of media works well towards this. Ana's story of the conception is narrated over picture book illustrations that go beyond the childhood aura they suggest (which reminds us of her crudeness and oddly her innocence). There are two musical numbers which rise from the onscreen action rather than get presented as out of world set-pieces. It reminded me of nothing so much as magical realist stories which act like fairy tales here but break into violence there, adopting literary styles to match.

The presenter who introduced the screening name-checked Jacques Torneur (though, his boss Val Lewton would have been more accurate) but I was more reminded of the 1941 Wolf Man with its appeal to the central character's pathos. Also, one of the finest goes at the sub genre Ginger Snaps with its collision of high school and werewolf. In both of those cases we arrive at the tightened third act expecting violence but receiving tragedy. Here we get a potential reconciliation but it's just as loaded as those examples.

At two and a quarter hours the middle act could use a lot of trimming to avoid overstatement and repetition but what we do get is still a strong fable of finding the right thing to do when that is the hardest thing to do.

Screening notes: Got to ACMI in good time to just swan in and take a good seat centre of the third row. Not more than about half capacity and most of them packed into the back. The presenter read out a well written introduction to the film addressing the queer, genre, race and class elements and invoked the name of Jacques Torneur which was pleasing if not entirely satisfying a comparison. And then, having read it out, fled to the exit to our light applause. Some annoying titters at moments by people who seem sociopathically detached from the emotional weight of what they were seeing broke out a few times but didn't decline into a chain of guffaws. Overheard among the crowd as we filed out, a man to his companion: "That bit where (deleted) happened it just lost me." Well, what the hell were you doing there, goose, the synopsis was pretty clear that that might be on the cards. Anyway...

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