Apr 2, 2015

Alléluia




I have been in a couple relationships with relatively ‘normal’ women, but whether it came to their aesthetic interests or sexuality, I found them to be hopelessly banal. Indeed, I can only imagined how boring in bed the average bourgeois-bred yet hopelessly negrified feminist-brainwashed MTV-loving twat is nowadays, but of course, as far as atypical ladies are concerned, ‘idiosyncrasies’ always come with their own set of ‘preternatural’ problems that can oftentimes drive one crazy, at least from my experience, but then again to be with such a woman, one must be at least partially crazy themselves. When two whackjobs get together, they oftentimes create what one might describe as ‘mad love,’ which is somewhat of a long celebrated tradition of cinema history as demonstrated by popular works like Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Leonard Kastle’s The Honeymoon Killers (1969), Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973), David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), Dominic Sena’s Kalifornia (1993), Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993), and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994), among countless other films that give ostensibly normal people a little whiff of what it is like to be in a fiery romance. Of course, many of these films are inspired by true stories about killer couples, including The Honeymoon Killers, which is based on the so-called ‘The Lonely Hearts Killers’ who killed upwards of 20 different women between 1947 and 1949 and were subsequently executed via electric-chair on March 8, 1951, but not before publicly professing their love for one another one last time. Indeed, Hawaii-born Spaniard Raymond Fernandez and his borderline obese WASP lover Martha Beck were a true odd couple that pretended to be brother and sister despite the obvious racial and cultural differences and lured unsuspecting desperate women via lonely hearts ads and then killed them for their money. The killer couple’s story not only inspired Kastle’s film, but at least three other cinematic works, including Profundo Carmesí (1996) aka Deep Crimson directed by Mexican Israelite and Luis Buñuel protege Arturo Ripstein, Lonely Hearts (2006) directed by some TV hack and starring John Travolta and Salma Hayek, and most recently Alléluia (2014) aka Hallelujah directed by Belgian Walloon auteur Fabrice Du Welz. While I just discovered and watched Du Welz's film, which seems to have come literally out of nowhere, I can say without the slightest hesitation that it is not only the most brutal and artful of the Lonely Hearts Killers flicks, but I have to admit that it is easily the greatest, which is no surprise considering the mad mensch that helmed it. While Du Welz has described Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as his favorite film in various interviews, he also has been influenced by the great magical realist filmmakers of his homeland like André Delvaux (The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, Belle), hence the originality of his ominously otherworldly yet darkly hilarious debut feature Calvaire (2004) aka The Ordeal, which features an exquisite homage to Un soir, un train (1968) aka One Night… A Train. After facing a nightmarish experience working on the mainstream multicultural French action-thriller Colt 45 (2014) starring a bunch of swarthy towelheads in a production that the director has described as “the worst experience of my life,” and “A terrible nightmare...[I] almost killed myself,” Du Welz decided to go back to his arthouse horror roots and assemble Alléluia. Inspired by how Ripstein was able to transport the ‘The Lonely Hearts Killers’ story to Mexico for Deep Crimson, Du Welz hooked up with Man Bites Dog (1992) co-writer Vincent Tavier and quickly assembled Alléluia with Calvaire star Laurent Lucas and Pedro Almodóvar regular Lola Dueñas as the two charismatic leads, henceforth creating one of the most decidedly deranged and debasing yet curiously comical and brutally beauteous celluloid romances ever sired on gritty 16mm celluloid. 







 Although from Spain, single divorced mother Gloria (Lola Dueñas) looks more like a Mestizo from Mexico and she has a job worse than a sweatshop janitor. Indeed, Gloria ‘prepares’ corpses for a living and at the beginning of Alléluia she spends a little too much time washing the shriveled cock of an elderly corpse. Luckily, Gloria's decided desensitization to the dead will come in handy in the near feature after she meets the mysterious man that will sweep her off her feet and pleasure her like no other person has ever done before. After being more or less forced by her trashy friend Madeleine (Stéphane Bissot), Gloria reluctantly agrees to go on a date with a dude that describes himself as “almost six-foot-six” on a dating site. The dude in question is Michel (Laurent Lucas) and he is a self-stylized ‘Satanist’ of sorts (notably, real-life Lonely Hearts Killer Raymond Fernandez believed that voodoo and black magic techniques that he learned from a cellmate in prison made him irresistible to women) and he does a silly ritual involving burning Gloria’s photo and creepily stating, “Let Gloria succumb to my charms. Let it be.” When Michel meets Gloria at a restaurant for their big date, he thoroughly impresses her with his conspicuously contrived pick-up lines, pseudo-cultivation, and bogus alpha-male persona, so naturally the two end up fucking right after the date. In fact, Michel also ends up spending the night at Gloria's apartment and acts if he is her hubby, even reluctantly eating breakfast in the morning with her bastard daughter Monique. When Gloria is abruptly called into work, Michel agrees to watch Monique, though he actually ends up spending most of his time snooping through his new lover’s stuff and finding incriminating things like photo albums where she scratched her ex-husband’s face out in every single picture. Michel also seems to derive sexual satisfaction from deeply inhaling the dubious odor permeating from Gloria’s used shoes (later in the film, Michel fiercely pleasures himself while Gloria's foot is lodged in his mouth in a seemingly uncomfortable fashion). Michel claims to be in the shoe business and when Gloria gets back from work he tricks her into giving him money that he claims he needs to use to pay a merchandise distributor.  Naturally, naive little woman-child Gloria is more than happy to give Michel the quick cash even though she is not exactly rich herself and has a child to feed, stating to her new beau regarding her somewhat creepily enthusiastic act of charity, “If you don’t help the people you love, you don’t really love them.” Of course, after Michel gets the money, he leaves without so much as giving Gloria a kiss despite all she’s done for him. 






 Before leaving her apartment, Michel gives Gloria his phone number, but when she calls he never picks, thus causing her to suffer lovelorn lunacy of sorts where she suffers bouts of hysterically crying and eventually begins going to every single club and bar in town looking for her MIA boy toy and asking random strangers if they have seen him. Of course, Gloria eventually spots Michel at a club not just dancing with one, but four different women, including a negress. Ultimately, Gloria decides to wait outside the club in her car and surprise Michel when he parts way with his slutty-looking company. Needless to say, when Gloria surprises Michel by appearing out of nowhere and confronting him, the only thing he can say is, “Let me explain…” and then proceeds to grasp his head as if faking an injury for sympathy while crying, “Oh my head” in an unintentionally humorous fashion. Of course, Gloria falls for his patently pathetic behavior and nurses Michel back to health at his apartment, which is covered with photographs of various lonely women he plans to seduce and milk for cash. Apparently, Michel genuinely has something wrong with his noggin as a result of being hit in the head with a beam at construction site when he was sixteen in a freak accident that has plagued him with permanent bouts of migraines that seem to be especially induced by stress, which Gloria will soon be the main source of. Although he has lied for most of the film, Michel realizes he has been caught and decides to reveal everything to Gloria about himself and his degenerate second rate Don Juan ways, stating, “My mom lived in a small apartment. When a man came, I had to sleep in the bedroom closet. When Mum didn’t have a man, she took me into her bed. I had to take their place. Until one guy threw me out. Then I wandered around. Not long. Just long enough to realize I had a gift. The skill Mum taught me, giving pleasure. Except, as you see, now I take something in return.” After that, Michel confesses he does not really own a shoe store and then tries to coerce Gloria into going back home, as if he genuinely cares about her feelings and does not want to let her down with his debauching ways. Instead of doing the sensible thing and leaving Michel for good, Gloria pleads to her man, “I wanna stay with you. You keep doing what you do…And I’ll help you. Being with you…living for you…relieving your migraines. Be mine, Michel. Want to?” Naturally, Michel cannot turn down her offer and the two become partners in both crime and romance. Indeed, Gloria even abandons her daughter by giving her to her friend Madeleine to watch, stating, “I’ve never felt so good in my life” and telling her progeny, “I’m going to do something important.”  Indeed, like many single mothers, Gloria decides to put her own needs before her daughter.





 In a scheme to get enough money to realize his dream of opening his own store, Michel marries a less than attractive and somewhat overweight post-menopausal woman named Marguerite (Édith Le Merdy) and moves in her large home with Gloria, who pretends to be his sister even though she is clearly Spanish. Of course, Gloria instantly becomes jealous of Marguerite and when she walks in on her lover receiving an aggressive blowjob from his new wife in a wine cellar, she goes berserk, jumps on the poor woman like a wild animal, and chokes her to death with relative ease within less than a minute.  Indeed, despite initially seeming like Michel will be responsible for masterminding the murders, it soon becomes fairly clear that Gloria is actually the crazier of the two.  Of course, Michel is mad but not because his new wife is dead but because Gloria killed her before she could get money from her so he could start his own legitimate business. As Michel tells Gloria, “I’m working. I have to fuck them” and then proceeds to fuck her on his belated wifey’s dinner table. In a bizarre and totally unforgettable piece of musical neo-magical-realism, Gloria sings the following lyrics before proceeding to stoically dismember Marguerite’s naked corpse with a saw, “Be careful, my love. They no longer have dreams. They’re empty and alone. They live in darkness. I found you. You brought me back to life, so beware my life…Be careful, my love, be careful.”  Although Michel's feelings seem much more complicated as if he has an incapacity for love, Gloria truly believes that she and her crypto-gigolo boyfriend share a special and totally singular love that everyone is jealous of and that no one would understand.





 In a true demonstration of ‘the banality of evil,’ Michel takes Gloria to a screening of John Huston’s The African Queen (1951) and proceeds to describe his “absolute respect” for Humphrey Bogart because he had no pain in his eyes during the film despite the fact he was apparently suffering from cancer while shooting the work in glorious hot and mosquito-ridden nations like Uganda and the Congo. While watching the film, Michel impersonates a scene where Bogart childishly mocks a hippo, which brings Gloria great happiness as if she has reverted to an infantile state. Since Gloria oftentimes acts like a child and throws literally murderous temper tantrums, Michel decides to use his Bogart impression anytime he needs to calm his lunatic lover. In an assumed tribute to Satan endowing the former with supernatural seduction powers, Michel and Gloria dance naked around a fire while in a seemingly possessed state of mad erotic ecstasy. Agreeing to no longer fuck his victims so as not to upset Gloria and cause her to botch another job by killing a woman for giving her beau a mere blowjob, Michel next targets a devout and nearly elderly Catholic woman named Solange (Héléna Noguerra).  Assumedly partly inspired by the setting of his favorite Bogart flick, Michel pretends to be a priest and tells a phony sob story about how Gloria started a Catholic mission in the Congo that was eventually attacked by rebels who killed all the men and raped all the women. Michel also claims that he started a ‘Catholic non-profit organization’ called ‘Aid Africa’ to raise aid for an imaginary fellow named ‘Father Samuel’ who refused to leave the ravaged negro village. During the entire comical charade, Gloria pretends to sob hysterically but eventually bursts out laughing while listening to Michel's borderline pornographic descriptions of the Afro-atrocities. Solange is clearly aroused by the story and states, “All that misfortune is fascinating” and then proceeds to compliment Michel by remarking that he is “very down to earth for a man of god,” thus hinting that she might have some sort of faint sexual attraction to him. In fact, Michel is so down to earth that he manages to eventually defile devout Catholic Solange, but Gloria walks in on the unholy act and beats the holy woman to death with a shoe. Before being beaten to death with footwear, Solange demonstrates how her religion has effected her sexuality by stating, “I forbid you to cum” while engaged in heated carnal knowledge with Michel.  







 After having a fake loving wedding ceremony by themselves in a barn, Michel hooks up with a relatively beautiful and wealthy single mother named Gabriella (Anne-Marie Loop) who has a young daughter named Eve that is about the same age as Gloria’s daughter.  Since Gabriella's husband died when Eve was only three months old, she is quite serious about finding a new surrogate father for her child, who seems to rather like Michel as he plays with her and helps her with her French lessons.  Of course, Gloria is exceedingly jealous of not only Gabriella and her glaringly superior pulchritude, but the fact that Michel treats Eve as if she were his real daughter even though he treated her own daughter Monique like a pestilence. Indeed, Michel seems like a relatively normal family man with Gabriella and Eve and, to the intense chagrin of Gloria, he even seems to bask in this new masculine role. Meanwhile, Gloria acts increasingly childish, even drawing hateful grotesque caricatures of Gabriella with “bitch” written next to it, which Eve eventually accidentally finds after the careless murderess leaves it outside. When Gloria attempts to give Eve a poorly assembled toy animal she has made out of hay and the little girl's mother demands that she say thank you, she throws an elaborate temper tantrum, screams, “I don’t want a present from her! I don’t want her to exist!” and then asks her mother if she is blind in regard to the dubious nature of her female house-guest. Meanwhile, to make sure she does not go into one of her homicidal rages, Michel begins drugging Gloria while he has sex with Gabriella. Unfortunately, Gabriella lets the cat out of the bag when she informs Gloria, who she thinks is Michel’s sister, that she is pregnant and wants to abort the baby. Of course, Gloria goes completely ballistic, begins strangling Eve and then locks her in a room, and then demands Michel kill Gabriella, absurdly stating, “You can fuck here, you can kill here.” After some hesitation and a botched half-hearted attack where he merely cuts her arm, Michel murders Gabriella at Gloria's command by hacking her in the neck with an axe. Obviously slightly less crazed and more morally sound than his beloved she-bitch, Michel tackles Gloria when she attempts to kill Eve, thus the little girl luckily manages to escape relatively unscathed. In the end, Gloria realizes that Michel was drugging her and decides to have her revenge. In the final fever-dream-like scene of the film, Michel and Gloria go to the movies and it is insinuated that the police have come to arrest the former as a result of the latter calling them, thus proving that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. 






 Part artsploitation romance, part magical realist musical, part postmodern anti-Heimat film, part (anti)Catholic satire, and part nihilistic horror-comedy, Alléluia, not unlike the director Fabrice Du Welz’s previous works Calvaire and Vinyan, is a work that rather refreshingly defies all genre categorization, which is all the more amazing when one considers that it is based on a true crime story that already inspired three other films. Apparently, Du Welz considers Calvaire and Alléluia to be the first two chapters of a proposed loose trilogy set in South Belgian area of Ardenne and starring Laurent Lucas that he hopes to complete sometime soon. Indubitably, he is probably the foremost auteur ‘Heimat horror’ in the world, which is something he seems to accept and embrace as demonstrated by remarks he has made in interviews about his homeland like, “Belgium is a dark, surreal, schizophrenic, absurd place to live. CALVAIRE is a very Belgian film.” Luckily, it seems Du Welz seems to have learned his lesson in regard to the true horrors of commercial filmmaking, as he stated in an interview with www.film4.com regarding his totally shockingly horrendous tastelessly xenophiliac mainstream frog action-thriller Colt 45 that, “…it was a disaster because it was a very bad production. They wanted me to deliver a strict commercial movie, and I'd like to do that, but I suppose I'm not the right guy for that job.”  Unfortunately, as the oeuvre of his filmic father figure André Delvaux demonstrates, Walloon filmmakers oftentimes have to rely on the French for getting their films produced, hence the country's lack of Dutch-language films despite the fact that the Flemish are the majority population of the culturally schizophrenic nation.




 Undoubtedly in its own weird fucked up and fiercely fiendish way, Alléluia is a rather romantic film that proves that, no matter how unhinged you might, there is always someone out there for you, even if such a union can lead to migraines, misanthropy, murder or worse. While I seriously doubt it was Du Welz’s intention, the film also features a serious indictment of womanhood that reflects the sort of warped thinking, hyper hysteria, and moral retardation that only women, as well as some fags and effeminate men, seem to have the capacity for.  While Michel seem rampantly heterosexual due to his mastery of pleasuring bitches and whatnot, he actually looks at sex the way as women do as a sort of tool and means to an end, though he also gets a narcissistic kick out of seducing women as well as if sex to him is just another form of masturbation. Like many male heterosexual degenerates, antihero Michel’s mental pathologies are the direct result of women and not any sort of male influence, as he is the forsaken bastard son of a wanton whore who made him both watch her fuck men in a closest and forced him to pleasure her when no other man was around. As Alléluia also demonstrates, few things are more deleterious to a child than a desperate single mother who is willing to go to a variety of absurdly debasing extremes to keep a man around. Also, it is no coincidence that Michel becomes the most well adjusted and happy when he takes on the natural position of a substitute father and husband, which is arguably what most angered jealous bitch Gloria, who seems to thrive in a world of chaos, death, and destruction and could never in her wildest dreams live such a life of domestic normalcy.  Of course, I probably should not be reading too much into any of this, as Du Welz has demonstrated in various interviews that he is an anti-intellectual of sorts who, unlike most contemporary European art fag arthouse auteur filmmakers, thankfully takes a more visceral approach to filmmaking that comes me from the gut than the oftentimes soulless intellect.  Indeed, Du Welz might have a dark soul of sorts but at least, unlike many of his contemporaries, he actually has a soul.



-Ty E

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