Tuesday, 22 August 2017

METAMORPHOSES review

Christophe Honore's latest oddity is screening today as part of Picturehouse Cinemas' Discover Tuesdays strand, and it's a head-scrambler to say the least.


This film screened at the 2014 London Film Festival but is only now making its way to the general public. But why, you may ask? Well, probably because it's a film that stretches the boundaries of film as a visual medium, not to mention the limits of taste and decency and, unfortunately, entertainment.

A re-telling of parts of Ovid's epic poem about the creation of the world and beyond, it's about as accessible as that sounds. Told in director Honore's native French (although largely a visual experience), the closest thing the film has to a main character is Amira Akili's Europa; following her life on the banks of a river and relationships with Jupiter, Orpheus and Bacchus. From there the film journeys into non-sequiturs that aim to retell Ovid's myths through modern French society.

For an adaptation of a fifteen book life's work that has been published in almost every language, it's surprising how much this is a resolutely visual adaptation. At times it resembles flipping through a book of photographs that work well as still images, but never meld together coherently. One of the biggest aspects of the film is its attitude towards sexuality and nudity. It presents a fluid display of gender constructs such as an early scene where a hunter stumbles across a transsexual woman bathing, only to be showered in glitter; but as the film progresses and more young, beautiful cisgender women shed their clothes, this feels less like artistic representation and more like opportunistic lechery on the part of the director. It's a shame that the flagrant nudity becomes a distraction, as it's when studying the themes of gender identity and biology within modern and classic settings that the film is at its best.


Purposely avant garde in its approach, if you're a fan of classic poetry there may be something here for you; but your average cinema audience, even one more accustomed to frequenting an art house establishment, will find this near impenetrable. It's unquestionably shot with skill behind the lens and there is intriguing, abstract imagery on show and the wonder of what the next bizarre thing may be, but without a story structure resembling anything like a narrative film it's a tough decision whether to keep watching or not.

Verdict
2/5

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