Criminal Lovers Review

Aug 17, 2000 | 8:00pm EDT

High school seductress Alice (Natacha Régnier) talks sensitive boy-pal Luc (Jeremie Rénier) into killing fellow student Saïd (Salim Kechiouche) - retribution Alice claims for Saïd organizing a gang-rape of her. After a memorably messy knifing the not-so-natural-born killers flee to the forest to dispose of the victim's body. But a kinky woodsman (Miki Manojlovic) with eccentric ideas about justice has no intention of letting the pair slip away until he's had some fun of his own.

Belgian-born rising star Régnier ("The Dreamlife of Angels") is a bewitching presence as a Rimbaud-spouting sociopath but the film doesn't know what to do with her after her nutso credentials are established. Rénier ("La Promesse") actually gets more mileage out of the less-showy Luc whose awkward sexual coming of age in the woodsman's cabin is the film's most original element. Yugoslavian star Manojlovic ("Black Cat White Cat") brings unexpected nobility to his meat-loving hermit character - a lusty Ted Kaczinski with European table manners.

French writer-director François Ozon ("Sitcom") initially puts a fresh spin on the familiar lovers-on-the-lam genre with the film's unpredictable first section but his unsympathetic portrayal of Alice increasingly distances the audience from the criminal duo's plight. The offbeat sexualities he explores are interesting as psychological cases but don't have much emotional resonance. On a more positive note the film's simple but arresting visual style effectively plays the tranquil forest settings against the twisted deeds that occur there.

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