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May 16, 2014

Back in Crime

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L'autre vie de Richard Kemp
Germinal Alvarez - 2013
Kino Lorbeer Region 1 DVD

The English language title, not the cleverest of puns, might not have been the best idea, although it does indicate the time travel aspect of this film, unlike the French title which translates as "The other life of Richard Kemp". The premise is familiar, in this case a cop goes back in time to solve a case he wasn't able to resolve twenty-five years earlier. What might be considered audacious is that the time travel is accomplished with a simple conk on the head, with present day Richard Kemp falling off a bridge and into the water, only to find himself in 1989 when he swims back to shore. Sometimes not providing an explanation is better than trying to make sense out of a nonsensical premise.

Several scenes take place on bridges. It's a great visual metaphor for a film about connections between past and present, or present and future. All of these bridges are above bodies of water, also a familiar symbol for the passage of time. It's not quite Alphaville but the 1989 Paris looks faintly futuristic, especially the curved exterior of Kemp's apartment building, and the interior with the checkerboard pattern walls that play with perspective. The bridges tend to become abstract images, where the more functional aspects as structures providing connections or as paths are only suggested.

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The big question is whether the future Richard Kemp is able to stop a crime he knows is about to happen. There is also a twist when Kemp returns to the present day involving his relationship with a woman he encounters, a psychologist. This is the kind of narrative that depends on taking the basic set-up on faith without too close an examination. As such, the 1989 Kemp crosses paths with the contemporary Kemp without any sense of recognition. A greater leap might be required for a scene where Kemp shows a series of photos stored on his yet to be invented cell phone.

Alvarez also has a color scheme at work with contemporary France on the cold side with various shades of blues and grays, while the past is dominated by shades of brown. Just as the film requires the viewer to glide past various aspects of the story that don't quite make sense upon closer examination, most of the pleasures to be found here are on the surface, with the use of color, shadows and images. Sometimes, that's really all a film needs.

One goof that bothered me, that could have been fixed with a couple minutes of research, is when a lecture on serial killers refers to Bob Bundy, instead of Ted Bundy. Or it could be that Bob Bundy is a serial killer in an alternate reality.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 16, 2014 07:35 AM