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Nature Morte (2006)
18th Apr 08
Artist John Stephenson (Romain Roll) awakes to find himself next to the corpse of Italian art dealer Livia (Michelle Esclapez), her being the subject of his latest painting, a painting done in his own unique style. His own unique style being a technique which involves stripping (nice), being tied up (depends on my mood), tortured (maybe not) and killed.
Believed to be a serial killer responsible for ten victims so far, with a habit of using the blood from his victims/subjects to 'paint', Stephenson takes the easy way out when he finds himself surrounded by police, and blows his brains out. Unbeknownst to Stephenson, someone else was present as he and Livia chatted in his Marseille home, watching from the shadows.
French undercover agent Georges Albert (Jeso Vial) is keen to get to the bottom of whether Stephenson was the murderer or not. He enlists the help of art connoisseur Oliver Davenport (Troy McFadden), whom is an expert on the deceased artist having written a book about him. Oliver confirms that a recently discovered painting may not actually be the handiwork of Stephenson, as was first suspected, and could be a forgery. This leads George to conclude that either the painter worked with an assistant or it was someone else killing the subjects.
Oliver and Georges travel to Ladang Geta, Thailand to seek out painter dealer Lec (Laurent Guyon) who owns some rare Stephenson pieces and also knew the man, as well as possessing a similar painting style. So could Lec be their killer? Oliver soon finds himself swallowed up by the sensual and drug spiked world Lec inhabits with his lover Blanche (Carole Derrien) and soon finds his life spiralling out of control.
From Nature Morte's DVD cover, and also from watching its opening scene, the viewer could be forgiven for thinking they had strayed into yet another entry in the already redundant torture-porn sub genre. Fortunately this is not the case here; with the tone being of a more psychological bent than empty thrills and chills.
Nature Morte plays like low budget art house horror spiced with an erotic flavour, aided by an almost dreamlike, atmospheric gothic tone. Mood is very much the essence of writer/director Paul Burrow’s movie, but it's not just about such styling. Its better written and less trashy as many of its ilk. Instead the viewer is afforded a more accomplished affair, remaining tasteful even when being sleazy, with most of the gorier moments occurring off screen rather than on.
Released through naughty old Salvation Films, the cover is designed to draw in those that like their splatter with a smattering of tits and ass. It goes without saying that there is plenty of such titillation, with the last half hour almost wall-to-wall bums and boobs. Whilst the climaxing naughtiness will appeal to the audience this movie has ultimately been tailored for, it does mean that the story loses its focus aiming to please a particular demographic, failing to resolve the story as satisfactorily.
With location-work in England, France and Thailand, Nature Morte looks more expensive than its budget would suggest, the location shots compensating for the lack of actual sets elsewhere. It also helps that the cast are international too meaning that there is little, if any, dodgy accents to undermine proceedings.
Troy McFadden as art dealer Oliver Davenport, the male eye candy, acquits himself well, being just the right side of wooden for the most part. However, when the story shifts away from Thailand it’s like he is acting in a different movie losing the momentum he had in the first hour. When it comes to the acting honours this is really Carole Derrien’s movie in more ways than one; she steals the movie as Lec’s swing-both-ways lover Blanche. Carole also produces with her husband, the movie’s director Paul Burrows. Both are also responsible for the fluid editing.
First-time director Paul Burrows has crafted a film that for all the naked bouncy bits on show plays more sensual than provocative and adds to the overall vibe of a rather seductive brew. Shot on DV, the framing is exquisite and helps the viewer overlook the limited sets. The film just looks great! Big thumbs up to Mr. Burrows, his Nature Morte certainly doesn’t feel or play like it’s someone’s first time calling the shots behind the camera, all of which bodes well for his next outing, the intriguingly entitled The Torture Slide.
The visuals are complimented by a great score courtesy of Steven Severin, former and original forming member of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and his missus Arban Ornelas. It heightens the tension and underlines the naughty bits in a suitably sensual way and thumps out the speakers without ever feeling it doesn’t belong with the quieter moments. The score is outstanding and is well worth seeking out. Their work here builds on the impressive soundtrack they contributed to Burrow’s buddy Robert Pratten’s Mindflesh, which incidentally also featured Carole Derrien in a starring role.
Stills Gallery – a few images from the film coloured in garish red or yellow accompanied by poster designs
Behind the Scenes Stills – Just over a handful of screens to flick through
Deleted & Alternative Scenes – Normally extras on DVD’s just feel tacked on to make the buyer feel they are getting more for their money. As extras on DVD’s go this is not the case here with this particular extra. It’s a diamond. It features writer/director Paul Burrows armed with a constantly filled glass of wine, as he talks about the scenes being shown and why they were not included or have been altered. There’s over half an hour of clips shown all followed with a brief discussion afterwards. There’s an alternative opening that Burrows reveals ends up featured later on as a movie playing on TV called Murder in Milan. And there’s a director’s cameo that by his own admission, he cut, because he felt he was crap in it.
Blooper Reel – For once, here’s five minutes of cock-ups that actually do make you giggle
Trailer – As it says…
Soundtrack Info – Do yourself a favour! Buy it!
Redemption Extras – Trailers for other movies on the DVD label plus contact details for the company