Twenty years since its controversial premiere at Cannes - reportedly to fainting episodes, booing, and walkouts - Claire Denis’ body-horror art film continues to be worthy of repeat viewings and re-evaluation. Featuring Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey and Béatrice Dalle, a brooding sense of foreboding gives way to extreme horror as powerful today as when the film was first released. Many critics were unhappy that Denis’ had followed the rapturously received Beau Travail with a film they could only describe as a gory horror film. Others were shocked by the extremity of the blood and sexual violence, and some dismissed it due to the scant plot, languid pace, and limited depth of characterisation.
When the film began to be included in the discourse on the New French Extremity, a tentative reappraisal seemed to be begin. A US re-release in 2013 led to further re-evaluation and there were positive reviews, most significantly Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice wrote an influential essay, fervently addressing the earlier criticisms and writing “viewers will likely find themselves in thrall to a supremely hypnotic, unsettling work by one of the most sensuous filmmakers of the past three decades.”
UK screenings of the film are rare. The DVD has been out of print for more than a decade, and among streaming services, only MUBI have made it available, and then only intermittently, so Lost Vampires is proud to be screening this provocative masterpiece in London in 35mm on the Prince Charles’s largest screen.
Presented in partnership with the National Film & Television School.