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Chrysalis
cast: Albert Dupontel, Marthe Keller, Marie Guillard, Patrick Bauchau, and Alain Figlarz

director: Julien Leclercq

90 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
This French crime thriller is set around 20 years in our future, where the world is a harsh, mechanistic place and Paris is filmed as a colourless, cold environment. The film looks great, the cast members are elegant, the violence is suitably brutal and the futuristic kit feels right, but the plot leaves a few things to be desired. It could have done with a large dash of originality, for a start. Julien Leclercq is one of four writers, but there seems to have been a collective failure of nerve when it came to vetoing clichés.

Cop David Hoffman (Albert Dupontal) is chasing down Dimitri Nicolov (Alain Figlarz) in the sewers when Nicolov kills his partner (and lover) and escapes. This, not unnaturally, puts Hoffman on a bit of a downer, and his new partner, Marie Becker (Marie Guillard) has a hard time being accepted. There is also the mystery of people who turn up either dead or with amnesia, with strange marks on their eyelids that will be familiar to everyone who has seen A Clockwork Orange. Nicolov, meanwhile, has been captured, but only to be accidentally killed by Hoffman while in custody. Hoffman is suspended and has to hand in his badge and gun in the usual manner. Later on, Nicolov's twin brother (Figlarz again) attacks him, and soon Hoffman and Becker are closing in on the illegal conspiracy at the middle of everything.

In a parallel and converging plot, we follow Professor Brügen (Marthe Keller) as she works in her private clinic while simultaneously seeking to fix her daughter who was badly injured in a car crash. The girl's memories have been damaged, and she is also receiving plastic surgery. There is a delightful scene where Keller performs virtual surgery in her hi-tech operating theatre while Verdi plays in the background. It becomes apparent, however, that she is also involved in developing a technology for a criminal element that allows memories to be erased or changed - something that has all sorts of possibilities for misuse. This proves to be the centre of the film.

It is an attempt to discuss the nature of personality and identity, but it fails to make much headway. Brief cutaways to ants, for example, may look good and suggest that we are mere automatons in an indifferent universe, but they are simple tricks that wouldn't seem out of place in a rock video. The beautiful design, which is the film's main strength, will doubtlessly age and look irrelevant in a few years, unless they have been very, very lucky. The plot trajectory isn't camouflaged enough to prevent the viewer seeing what is up ahead, unfortunately, which lends an air of detachment to the whole experience. Chrysalis is an intriguing failure.

The DVD extras consist of a making-of documentary, and the trailer.
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