Jul 21, 2014
Undoubtedly, Frogs like making films about sensual underage girls and ugly swarthy dudes with guns (or, as Jean-Luc Godard once famously stated, “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.”), but few French films take this approach more literally and obsessively than Marie from the Bay of Angels (1997) aka Marie Baie des Anges aka Angel Sharks directed by quasi-auteur Manuel Pradal (The Blonde with Bare Breasts, A Crime). A coming-of-age tale for eager ephebophiles and unhinged urchins alike, Pradal's pathologically playful piece of montage-ridden sensual cinema follows a classless teenage crook of the racially dubious sort and his would-be-touching but ultimately senselessly tragic love affair with a 15-year-old prostitute who routinely leads on moronic American sailors so she can steal their money. Filled with partially bare youthful flesh and incessant teen philistine delinquency, Marie from the Bay of Angels is like a frog The Blue Lagoon (1980) meets Larry Clarks Kids (1995) and Bully (2001) as directed by a young filmmaker that wishes he was the next François Truffaut yet got too hung up on Sergei Eisenstein’s theory of montage to tell a coherent story. Still, Pradal’s rather wanton work is an endlessly enthralling celluloid poem of sorts that, although somewhat like one long music video in structure, undoubtedly makes the Mediterranean seem genuinely beauteous, romantic, and even mystifying, even if it is crawling with deadly teenage delinquents that look like they crawled out of some of the most decrepit shacks from the South of France. Described by Stephen Holden of the New York Times as a, “dizzying paganistic ode to Eros,” Marie from the Bay of Angels indeed features pagan pageantry in the form of festive parade, as well as no moral compass, at least not a Christian one, as a low-class libertine work featuring prepubescent boys attempting to buy guns and getting wasted on vodka while crashing bumper cars, obscenely stupid American sailors acting like typical stupid ass Americans as rather repellant individuals lacking individuality that think the world is a gigantic whorehouse and treat native women a such, packs of adolescent frog morons attempting to steal cash and gash from whoever has the misfortune of crossing their rather wickedly wayward path, and a young girl that is just getting to know the power of her pussy but does not use it wisely because she just wants to have fun and gets bored banging old farts. A rather idiosyncratic flick with a somewhat timeless quality about it (indeed, at first I was not sure whether it was set in the present or the 1950s, but I guess that is the point as a work depicting the world in the age of Americanization) set in Promenade des Anglais along the Mediterranean at Nice, France, Pradal’s decidedly decadent work is more of a cocktease than an explosive climax, though the film could not end more nihilistically with the death of a child or two and the total moral degeneration of the male antihero, who has a seemingly inbred face that only a white trash streetwalker could love.
Orso (played by non-actor Frédéric Malgras, a Russian gypsy, hence his ‘peculiar’ appearance) is not even an adult, but he is already a degenerate piece of untermensch trash who spends his days robbing beauteous bourgeois babes and naïve vacationers in the French Riviera when he is not riding around aimlessly on trains, catching a bumpy ride on his equally criminally-inclined friend's motorbike, or posing like a true moron with his beloved handgun, as if he is some sort of iconic filmic bad ass. Marie (played by ‘contemporary Brigitte Bardot’ Vahina Giocante in her very first film role) is a 15-year-old hooker who is a rather big bitch, especially when it comes to men who want to tear off her panties, but since she is underage, she has no problem luring in philistine American sailors who are just trying to get laid while abroad. Although more or less homeless, Marie’s pussy-peddling allows her the luxury of staying in a lavish suite in a fancy hotel, though a life of sub-high-class existence does not seem to do much to comfort her seemingly sullen soul. When Marie first meets antisocial Orso, she thinks he is a major asshole, but after she sees him attempt to rob two large American sailors, who ultimately kick his scrawny little Romani ass, and commit various other petty yet oftentimes dangerous crimes, she becomes rather intrigued by him and begins to reconsider her dead-end life as a Lolita-like gold-digger. Although Marie takes advantage of being routinely wined and dined by pathetically pigheaded American soldiers, who think they are god’s gift to women yet do not even have the skills to impress an ignorant 15-year-old girl, she eventually realizes her heart yearns for the ugly teenage hood. When Marie ends up hitching a ride on a motorbike with Orso and his comrade, and the junior thief begins to feel up and down her thigh and nibbles on her neck, she falls in love and assumedly gets rather wet between the legs. Eventually, Orso and Marie decide to head to a secluded island where they declare their love for one another via words and acts. Of course, scheming con Orso is well aware that his lover is a libidinous little whore and uses her as such, even getting her to dance provocatively on a pier to distract an old man and his son so that he can steal the old horndog’s boat. In an act of warped and reckless love, Marie also robs a handgun from one of her pussy patrons and gives it to Orso, who is more than a little bit delighted as he previously failed at attempting to procure a weapon after his blonde prepubescent middleman friend was robbed. Of course, as a born thief and ‘heterosexual Jean Genet’ of sorts (indeed, not only is he a small-time criminal, but his face is no less repugnant than that of the queer toad novelist), Orso cannot help but use his prized new weapon for pernicious purposes and eventually has the bright idea to rob a sweet middle-aged married couple that owns a bar. Of course, things go wrong and a struggle occurs between Orso and the bar owners that results in Marie accidentally receiving a fatal gunshot wound that ultimately brings the pubescent lover's touchingly romantic love affair to a totally avoidable premature end. After taking Marie’s corpse to the scenic villa of a beautiful young woman (Amira Casar) he previously robbed and shooting up all the televisions and surveillance cameras in the home while watching the Monaco Grand Pix race, Orso goes completely berserk and nonsensically kills his blonde prepubescent friend who, rather ironically, was supposed to help him find a gun (of course, had the boy found the gun before Marie did, she might still be alive, thus one can only assume that, in his warped logic, Orso blames his friend for his girlfriend's death). Indeed, in the end, what little hope that existed before has been irrevocably lost, with Marie dead and Orso becoming a coldblooded killer who wasted one of his friends in the most craven and pointless of fashions.
Featuring footage of the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix, riot-ridden patriotic soccer games that resemble fascist rallies, and fiercely festive carnivals with people dressed as pagan gods, Marie from the Bay of Angels is certainly like a cinematic vacation to one of the most addictively scenic and strangely romantic spots in the Mediterranean. With its blatantly and not so blatant nods to François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, and Eric Rohmer, among various others, Pradal’s film is also like a lurid love letter to the La Nouvelle Vague, albeit with an exceedingly fast-spaced editing style that the filmmaker (or his editor) seemed to have learned from watching one-too-many American TV commercials. A morally dubious celebration of juvenile delinquency and debauchery, Marie from the Bay of Angels is, not unlike Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish (1983) and the films of Larry Clark, a rare arthouse flick for the sort of teenager that does not dare admit that they like poetic art films, as it probably features enough salaciousness and visceral violence to keep most ADHD-addled adolescents happy. Undoubtedly, one of the more hilarious aspects of the film (and probably the only aspect of the film that acts as comic relief) is its less than flattering depiction of American sailors who, although dress in a classic fashion like the brutal semen demons from Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks (1947) and the sadomasochistic sodomites of Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982), are really just a bunch of arrogant and loudmouthed pansies who can barely scare off a gang of teenage boys and who do not have the balls to assert themselves onto young ladies (indeed, during one scene, a sailor awkwardly and disingenuously tells Maria that he loves her just so he can get in her pants). In one especially humorous scene, one of the sailors arrogantly proclaims, “It’s like purgatory here man…Every single woman is after my body,” while Marie looks bored to death while eating an expensive meal that the Yankee gentleman bought for her. When the American sailors eventually realize that Marie has no interest in them, they kick her out of their lives and treat her like total trash, telling her she “stinks” and whatnot, as if they are afraid of vaginas and need an excuse for not consummating coitus with her. While featuring next to nil nudity (aside from a pair of tits or two from a couple older women), Marie from the Bay of Angels certainly radiates raw youthful eroticism in a rather nicely nuanced fashion that even puts the uncensored ‘kiddy arthouse’ flick Maladolescenza (1977) starring Eva Ionesco to shame in terms of perverse adolescent poetry. For those that were hoping to enjoy Catherine Breillat’s 36 fillette (1988), but found the little lady lead to be a bit homely and the overall film to be plagued by banality and a rather foul feminist subtext, Marie from the Bay of Angels offers a delightfully debasing rollercoaster ride over the soothing surf and turf of the French Riviera that may be somewhat incoherent (the time frame of the film is nearly impossible to discern) and emphasizes style over substance, but it certainly never bores or wallows in pseudo-erotic/pseudo-intellectual pretense like most of the films that are halfheartedly churned out of frogland nowadays. Indeed, unlike The Blue Lagoon, there is an element of delectable danger to Pradal’s film that is quite rare to find in cinema nowadays. Like a cultivated Kids with an uncommon respect for indigenous kultur and a complete disrespect for the plague that is American intervention, Marie from the Bay of Angels is like a The 400 Blows (1959) for the lost post-national generation that has nothing to believe in or live for, hence the nihilistic non-existences of the true Les Enfants Terribles of Pradal's rather bleak yet bewitching and epodic film.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 1:35 AM
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