Thursday, August 7, 2008


Paris, 2027.
David Hoffman (Albert Dupontel, from Irreversible and Un long dimanche de fiancailles) is an operative for EuroPol who is roped back into the grind when Dimitri Nicolov (Danny The Dog’s Alain Figlarz), the criminal Hoffman has been after for a while now, resurfaces.
With a new partner in tow (played by Marie Guillard), all Hoffman has to go on is a dead, unidentified girl in the morgue, with some strange markings around her eyes.
Thus does Julien Leclercq’s Chrysalis kick off.

Now, first off, Chrysalis is one damned pretty picture.
The cinematography by Thomas Hardmeier, coupled with production design by Jean-Philippe Moreaux, gives us one of those gorgeously realized future worlds, sleek, and slickly photographed.
This also isn’t some mindless popcorn foray into science fiction. Chrysalis isn’t about snazzy, scene-stealing, and ultimately heartless CGI.
But while it is about something, it sadly falls short of actually being about something, if you know what I mean.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Chrysalis is that the film’s central mystery, which propels the narrative forward, is readily apparent, and yet approached by the script in a measured, oblique manner.
As soon as the dead girl’s identity (and the circumstances of her disappearance) are revealed, all the apparently disparate story elements—which include a young girl named Manon (played by Mélanie Thierry), who is apparently recovering from an accident which we see in the film’s pre-opening credits sequence—will fall into place for the alert viewer. Past this point however, Chrysalis continues to unfold as if its mystery still had any currency with its audience.
And though I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as “plodding,” Chrysalis plays as if its 94-minute running time were significantly longer.
And because it takes so long to get to its climactic reveal, we’re left with a distinct absence of any sort of fallout from the revelation. And it’s a heavy, life-altering kind of revelation, but because the film’s spent too much time on other things (like keeping the integrity of its “mystery” intact), we get no sense of the true gravity of the situation.

And while Dupontel makes for a capable protagonist in the “tortured, guilt-ridden cop” school of movie leads, his performance also hits a snag when a massive event takes place in Hoffman’s life, and we get no real, tangible sense of the change in the character.
Again, I hesitate to use a term like “one-note,” as far as Dupontel’s performance in Chrysalis goes, but it does seem to lack some much-needed nuance, particularly in the film’s third act.
Granted, Dupontel handles the physical demands of the role well, and the bathroom beat-down with Figlarz is a highlight, but I wish I’d seen more texture, more vulnerability, in Dupontel’s Hoffman.

Like Christian Volckman’s Renaissance, the science fiction convention that Chrysalis uses as its springboard, is ultimately about a kind of immortality.
But beyond a few possibilities—delivered by the narrative in an almost dismissive manner, courtesy of The Pretender’s Patrick Bauchau—the film again doesn’t seem to significantly delve into the underlying ideas of that convention.
Then, not only is the emotional potential of the climactic reveal severely blunted by the narrative circumstances surrounding it, but the final confrontation is precipitated not by any extraordinary investigative work, but rather by mere happenstance, making Chrysalis’ ending even more vaguely dissatisfying than it already is.

However, flaws and all, I would still recommend Chrysalis, since its intentions are certainly noble, and an undeniably ridiculous amount of skill and artistry clearly went into its making.
This is very good cinematic SF, people, something we need a lot more of these days, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what Leclercq comes up with next.

Parting shot: Reviews of Renaissance and Danny The Dog can be found in the Archive.

(Chrysalis OS courtesy of

No comments: