Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq (DVD)
Directed by Pitof
Distributed by Lionsgate
Gérard Depardieu gets a bad rap when it comes to American cinema. For some reason movie-makers here in the States can't seem to use him as anything more than a bumbling buffoon. Come on! This man played and owned the role of Cyrano de Bergerac!!! No matter because director Pitof was able to make better use of him in 100 minutes of film than all of his U.S. friendly appearances.
Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq is a long, drawn-out title that doesn't make sense. All other releases of this DVD are simply labeled Vidocq. This could serve as evidence that the DVD is being marketed along the lines of the Riddick series. Do not worry though; this film is far better than that.
Vidocq (Depardieu) was France's favorite detective in the 1830s. He is rather unorthodox in his methods as a super sleuth; as his ex-chief of police protests, he could have spent his talents far better. Nothing is out of the question for the larger than life detective, even dressing up as a big-chested wench. Vidocq's dedication to solving crimes does come to be his undoing as he tracks down a vicious, mirror mask wearing murderer. Before the audience can even get to know Vidocq, he is struck down only to be replaced as the main character by his biographer, who is hellbent on solving the case and learning the true identity of the one responsible, known only as The Alchemist.
It is hard not to notice how stylish this film is. Shot entirely in digital, there is an air of Star Wars about it. The effects may not be top-notch, but they are passable and pleasing to the eye. This isn't exactly the kind of thing one would expect from a costume drama, but it works to Vidocq's advantage.
The style is not without some aspects that may annoy certain viewers. Those who are not fans of close-up shots ... extreme close-up shots ... may not make it past the opening scene. Depardieu's nose, glassworkers' sweat, and washer wenches' saggy breasts are thrown at you to such an extent that it sometimes smears the line between a thriller and a comedy sketch.
On the positive side the sets and characters are rich with detail. On very rare occasions are scenes barren of lush colors or an abundance of small things that make Vidocq's world ever more real even though the story stretches the imagination and suspension of disbelief.
This tale is loaded with twists and turns so to go further than the synopsis written above would ruin the experience this reviewer thinks everyone should witness. A few snags pop up during the end when the killer is revealed and his motives are discovered. While loose ends are tied up, a few questions remain because some pieces of the puzzle aren't well explained or expanded. For example, The Alchemist requires human souls to stay young. He absorbs said souls by sucking them into his mask and cloak. Yet, when the glass helmet is shattered, twice, he/she/it never suffers any effects from the loss. Curious, but hey, it's a French film!
Plot holes aside, another problem here is that Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq, while stunning to watch, barely has any special features. The English dub is hilarious in a bad way, and the “Apocalyptica” music video is just there. The song itself is good, but the video just recaps most of the film in random clips, nothing more.
Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq is an amazing film that deserves attention. At the very least it should get a much better DVD treatment than this. If you passed over it in the store because it looked like a rip-off of other Hollywood films, do not be fooled. It's better than most of them.
And now for a look at those lovely wenches washing clothing:
“Apocalyptica” music video
4 1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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