Tuesday, October 19, 2021

ALLELUIA (2014) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 17
Total First Time Views: 12
Amount raised for ALBANY PARK THEATER PROJECT: $1260.55

Alleluia (2014) d. Fabrice du Welz  (Belgium/France) (93 min) (1st viewing)

Mousy and reserved Gloria (frequent Almodovar star Lola Dueñas) falls deeply for slick, slimy shoe salesman Michel (Laurent Lucas) after their one night of passion, even going so far as to give him money when a business deal purportedly goes south, but then he disappears with the dough and her heart. What Michel doesn’t anticipate, however, is Gloria’s tenacity in tracking him down, followed by her astonishing openness, telling him that she understands and is willing to help him exploit other women in return for his devotion. Stunned into mutual adoration, Michel sets up their next target, only to find his new partner’s emotional attachment a bit complicated for his needs.

This deranged romantic thriller from Belgian writer/director Welz is loosely inspired by the true-life “Lonely Heart Killers” case from the 1940s (famously brought to the screen in 1969 as The Honeymoon Killers), wherein con man Raymond Fernandez and mortician’s assistant Martha Beck schemed to bilk older women out of their money by posing as brother and sister and moving into their prospective victims’ homes. Unfortunately for their victims, Beck and Fernandez were lovers and the former a very jealous one, with the marks usually ending up dead. (While they were only convicted of murdering a handful, it is rumored that their death tally leaned upwards toward 20.)

Welz, who made a splash with his stunning take on the “backwoods terror” subgenre, Calvaire (aka The Ordeal, which also starred Lucas), and co-screenwriters Vincent Tavier and Romain Protat have brought Beck and Fernandez’s story into modern-day, having them meet online through an Internet dating site (rather than the personal ads). Other than that, however, things seem to exist in a simpler, non-techy time, with most encounters occurring in person or over the phone with nary a laptop computer in sight. This neither detracts from nor enhances the story, but it is a curious approach to what is presumably intended to be an update for the modern era.

However, this becomes a non-issue because the lead performances by Dueñas and Lucas are so captivating and full-blooded that we are fully invested in their intertwined fates. Despite their criminal habits of murder and theft, we grow to care about them and wish they could just get their acts together. In Gloria’s case, she really needs to stop killing their chosen victims before they even have a chance to get their money. (Michel’s looks of disbelief as his amour chokes or bludgeons his would-be lovers before his eyes is darkly hilarious.) For Michel, he continues to make promises of fidelity that he simply can’t/won’t keep, which sends Gloria even further around the bend.

While this is largely a psychological drama, the frequent outbursts of graphic violence and overt weirdness (pre-dismemberment ballads, naked ritual bonfire dancing, toe-sucking masturbation sequences) tip it handily into genre territory, the feverish atmosphere fueled by Manuel Dacosse’s (Amer, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears) alternately jagged and lyrical cinematography. It’s certainly not for all tastes, but it definitely does what it sets out to do and keeps Welz at the forefront of Belgium’s bad boys.



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