Salvation Films // 2007 // 91 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // February 26th, 2008
Nature Morte: a French artist's term for still life.
I chose to examine the case of Nature Morte partly because the world premiere took place in my home country of Luxembourg, during the legendary Cinenygma Luxembourg International Film Festival. As a technical assistant during the festival, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the cast members about the film, which gently increased my expectations. Now that I've seen Nature Morte, however, I'm sad to announce these expectations were not exactly fulfilled. Instead, I was really glad when the end credits finally started rolling after 90 minutes of torturous boredom.
Confusing as it is, the movie kicks off with the apparent suicide of famed painter and suspected serial killer John Stevenson (Roman Roll). Shortly after, art critic and Stevenson biographer Oliver Davenport (Troy McFadden) is asked by the police to assist in an investigation into the authenticity of a series of new paintings experts claim stem from John Stevenson himself. Together with detective Georges Albert (Jeso Vial), Davenport travels to Thailand to track down the potential creator of the artwork and unlock the disturbing mystery of these extraordinary paintings.
It's nearly impossible to count all the flaws in Paul Burrows' directorial debut, but if I had to pick the one with the most devastating impact in on the film, I'd definitely go with the script. The story of Nature Morte features select interesting aspects, yes, but as a whole it simply drowns in boredom and risks losing its audience early on. The plot is incredibly slow-paced, and the scenes in which absolutely nothing is happening seem to be the longest. If you decide not to completely turn off the movie after the first 20 minutes, chances are you'll quickly be turning your attention to something else while watching.
The film has quite a gloomy atmosphere, but suspense is conspicuously absent. The story itself, as I mentioned, is rather complex, and although it tries to go all mysterious and captivating on its viewers, it really isn't. Sure, it's nice for a change to watch a darker flick without nonstop brainless murders and silly torture, but the plot is simply too slow and monotonous to fully appreciate. All the audience gets to see for an hour and a half is a blatant mixture of sex, drugs, and primitive dialogue. There are a couple of killings in the movie, but they are insignificant and look cheap for the most part. People call Nature Morte a horror thriller a la Hostel, but I had real trouble finding anything thrilling about it. Do not be fooled by the DVD cover. Except a lot of naked breasts, a few spankings, and a few stains of blood, the film offers nothing remotely close to a solid horror spectacle. It even fails to conclude with an efficient ending.
Let's move on to the cast. In casting Roman Roll for the role of John Stevenson, Burrows made an excellent choice. Roll has the ideal dark voice and terrifying look to play a threatening villain, but it's a shame we only get to see him for a few minutes at the beginning of the film. Acting honors also go to Laurent Guyon for his authentic performance as Lec, a bizarre artist Davenport and Albert encounter on their trip to Thailand. Sadly enough, that's it for the solid acting in Nature Morte. Jeso Vial and John Lamond struggle to play their characters convincingly, but their efforts go unnoticed. As far as Carole Derrien is concerned, she fails to convince in her role as seductive dominatrix, making more use of her bosom instead of her acting skills.
Burrows shot his movie in DV, which explains why the picture quality is not always the best. The lightening is not quite sophisticated and the image is often a little too dark for my taste. I also encountered several issues with the audio transfer. Listening to the French actors speak English with a heavy accent is hard most of the time because the music and ambience in the film often overpower the dialogue.
The bonus material on the DVD is not impressive at all. The special-feature section includes two stills galleries with images from the film and the set. Besides a mediocre five-minute blooper reel, a trailer, and a trailer gallery showcasing Redemption's upcoming release, the disc also comprises 31 minutes worth of deleted and alternate scenes with an introduction by Burrows. I only made it through about half of them to be honest, but they as just as tiring as the movie itself. The bonus material could have easily included a making-of, which I am sure would have been far more entertaining than the feature film.
I'm glad Paul Burrows managed to get his film distributed on DVD. I completely understand first-time directors lack the financial resources to use high-tech filming equipment, but last time I checked, writing a solid script requires some paper, a pen, and some creative ideas. It's pretty safe to assume that every good movie also has a good script; Nature Morte lacks this crucial aspect, and is disappointing at best. Skip this one.
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Salvation Films
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes
* Stills Gallery
* Blooper Reel
* Theatrical Trailer
* Official Site