November 3, 2017 True Love Ways (Movie Review)
In these days of disposable digital media, when every bit of video has to be either in bite-sized chunks or star flavor-of-the-day celebrities in order to hook society’s attention, it is a tonic to see a film hearken back to the times when we could pay attention to a stylish slow burn or a romance that was not immediately and graphically consummated—a time when we could appreciate the artistry of a film rather than ruminate on the most ingenious way to call its director “pretentious” on Twitter. True Love Ways is a film that, despite prominently displaying modern technology, makes its audience forget that they have that same technology. It is familiar enough to be now, but foreign enough to be then.
The elegant and avant-garde True Love Ways was released by production companies Grand Hotel Pictures, KlusFilm Berlin, and ARRI Film And TV Services on October 1, 2015 in Germany. It was digitally distributed to America through all major streaming platforms on October 1, 2016 by Synergetic Distribution, and is still picking up interest as more people discover it.
The film, directed by Swiss Director Mathieu Seiler (House Of Orgies 2000, Der Ausflug 2012), follows petulant Séverine (Anna Hausburg: Leroy 2007, Sleeping Beauty 2008), who has fallen out of love with her adoring boyfriend, Tom (Kai Michael Müller: Tough Enough 2006, Breaking Horizons 2012) in favor of a man she dreamt about. Agitated Tom heads down to a bar where he meets an enigmatic man named simply Chef (David Bunners: The Lies Of The Victors 2014, Short Term Memory Loss 2016).
At length, they concoct a shrewd plan to kidnap Séverine and arrange it so Tom can rescue her and thus rekindle that fiery passion that once existed. The plan goes woefully awry when it is revealed that Chef is a sort of filmmaker who took advantage of lovelorn Tom and plans to give Séverine a very niche and short film career. The ensuing cascade of events is cruel and psychosexual, leaving a pile of corpses as a receipt.
There are no wasted sounds or words. The music, handled by Beat Solèr, is strategically started and abruptly stopped; the dialogue is sparse and breathy as Séverine flits around her assailant’s home like a hunted fairy. The only thing that betrays this movie occurring in the past is the presence of cellphones and their noises, which unfortunately play a sizable role in an otherwise very 1960s splatterfest.
Cinematographer Oliver Geissler’s arresting angles and deft camera movements complement Sarah Weber’s fragmented editing in what feels like a visual séance for Alfred Hitchcock. Adding to this effect is the fact that the entire film was shot in a high contrast, black and white chiaroscuro. The closeup shots of washed out white faces look as if pulled directly out of an Ingmar Bergman film while some of the shadowy darks smack of Maya Deren or Ermanno Olmi, albeit digitally razor sharp. This sharpness, by nature, neuters some of the effect of the black and white treatment, but not so much as to spoil the feeling.
Moreover, Hausberg displays an impressive range of emotion as Séverine. She does not speak much, but subtle shifts in her eyebrows and at the corners of her mouth speak her terror more eloquently than any clumsy dialogue could. Her articulate and sensual facial expressions are steeply reminiscent of Claudia Cardinale’s in 1966’s The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly and Anna Karina’s in 1965’s Pierrot Le Fou.
All of these august influences inject a very specific feeling into True Love Ways. It is a feeling that older audiences will have to dust off to be recognized. A feeling that will be just plain unrecognizable—and possibly unbearable—to younger audiences. It is called cinematic nostalgia. The pacing is purposeful and the action is subdued, but the ultraviolence is pure and the sadism is palpable. It is vintage, but fresh. It is classic, but current. It is leather, but Maestley™. The fact that it is not shot on film is borderline criminal, though admittedly, shooting on film is cost-prohibitive in this day and age.
True Love Ways probably will not keep your average 18-year-old engaged. Their eyes will glaze over and it will only be a matter of time before they are high on black tar Snapchat, but for anyone who finds themselves from time to time yearning for the days when movies had a modicum of soul and style, when you did not have to sacrifice style for substance, or vice versa, True Love Ways may surprise you… and for that, CrypticRock gives True Love Ways 4 out of 5 stars.
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