Tag Archives: Nathalie Nell

Rape of Love (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Assault victim seeks justice.

Nicole (Nathalie Nell), a young nurse, goes bike riding one day to a friend’s house. Four men (Marco Perrin, Gilles Tamiz, Bernard Granger, Daniel Auteuil) spot her at a cafe and begin following her in a van. Once she reaches a remote area they drive her off the road and force her into the back of the van where she’s taken to a remote shed and brutally raped and humiliated. Once it’s over she’s brought back to the dark road, thrown to the pavement, and warned not to tell anyone. Initially she feels ashamed and doesn’t want to talk about it, but then while making a house call to one of her patients (Marianne Epin) she sees a picture of one of the rapists on the wall, who’s apparently a married family man living a normal life. She’s enraged that these men can go on living like nothing happened while she remains emotionally and mentally shaken. She becomes motivated to bring them to justice despite both her mother (Tatiana Moukhine) and boyfriend (Alain Foures) advising her not to.

This film was written and directed by Yannick Bellon, a feminist who had  worked on documentaries before doing this one. It bears a striking resemblance to Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave, both were filmed around the same time and neither production was aware of the other. Bellon had wanted to make a movie about rape that didn’t sanitize it and would capture it in the most explicit and violent way possible. While Zarchi’s movie has gone on to achieve cult status this one has fallen into obscurity even though despite some flaws it’s easily the better of the two.

The rape scene is quite graphic though I was actually expecting it to go on longer. It lasts for about 10-minutes, which is just enough time to give the viewer a very raw and uncomfortable taste of the crime’s viciousness without exploiting it and then unlike with the Zarchi movie the film shifts back into a drama instead of a revenge horror flick. I liked this transition better as it gives greater depth to the characters including the rapists who aren’t shown as being one-dimensional backwoods thugs like in the other movie, but instead regular citizens who you’d think were nice guys if you didn’t know better. One scene even has them discussing at a bar what they feel would be a suitable punishment for a criminal who had committed another crime, showing how these men, as terrible as they are, still have a warped idea of morality for others.

I also liked the way it focuses on Nicole’s psychological recovery though here I felt it got a bit botched. Having her examined after the incident by a male doctor I didn’t think worked as she’d not trust a male being in that emotional state and insist instead on a female physician. She also expresses later to a friend (Michele Simonnet) that she no longer likes people to touch her even as her friend touches her while she says it, which doesn’t make much sense. She also goes right back to riding her bike even though I’d think it would take her a long time if ever before she’d do that again.

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Her relationship with her boyfriend and the way they no longer have sex, which frustrates him is interesting particularly the scene where he’s shown angrily walking down the street and comes upon a prostitute. I thought the film was going to have him take his frustrations out on her and thus showing how this ‘good guy’ could be, under certain circumstances, just a violent as the rapists he hates, which could’ve brought out an insightful irony, but the film only teases the idea and eventually doesn’t go there.

The reaction of the rapist’s wife who begs Nicole not to take the case to court as it would be stripping her of a ‘fine husband’ and her kids from a ‘wonderful father’ seemed absurd. I would presume most wives would be disgusted to find out what their husbands had done and would want to leave them, or at the very least refuse to believe that they had committed it. Then again I was not living in France during the 70’s, so I can’t say I know how that culture would view rape. I know they consider affairs in a much more liberal way where it’s not always the deal-breaker like it is here, but to frame rape as just being another of his ‘flings’ seemed a bit too open-minded.

Spoiler Alert!

The climactic court battle falls flat. Having the men immediately confess to what occurred once they were questioned by the authorities didn’t seem realistic. After all she didn’t decide to press charges until 6-months later, there was no semen sample, no DNA, and no other witnesses. The men could’ve denied everything and most likely gotten-off. The film ends without the viewer finding out the verdict and never knowing how stiff their penalties were, or weren’t.

I wasn’t so keen about the boyfriend, who left Nicole once she decided to go public about the rape, coming back at the end and rekindling the romance. I felt this sent the wrong message. Sometimes when a person decides to do what they think is right then that means sacrificing everything and learning to live with it including losing friendships with people that don’t agree with what they’re doing. It’s a bridge one crosses that you can’t go back on. Having her adjust to being an independent single woman, or finding a new boyfriend that wouldn’t bail on her during her time of need would’ve been a better resolution.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 11, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Yannick Bellon

Studio: Les Films de l’Equinoxe

Available: DVD-R (French with English Subtitles) (j4hi.com)

Echoes (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Haunted by dead brother.

Michael (Richard Alfieri) is a young artist who is plagued by reoccurring dreams dealing with a menacing man out to get him. He goes to a psychic and learns that this is actually his dead twin brother who died at birth and is now reaching out in attempt to possess him.

This is a unique idea that is reminiscent of the later film (and book) The Dark Half and is some ways more intriguing. Unfortunately instead of approaching it like a thriller, occult, sci-fi, or mystery it instead treats it like a social drama(!?!). The majority of the film is spent on how his obsession with these dreams affects his relationship with his girlfriend, job, and other friends. There is no suspense or chills whatsoever. The ‘visions’ are unremarkable and non-distinctive. The music is too loud and way too heavy for what ends up being very dramatically trite stuff. The climax is hooky and laughable and there is never any explanation for why this happened or how.

There are also a lot of dramatic lulls that really hurt the film’s momentum. The whole first half hour is spent on his budding relationship with his girlfriend Christine (Nathalie Nell) before it even gets to the story and the way they get together is quite stodgy to begin with. By and large the characters and dialogue are bland even the menacing spirit of the dead brother is sterile.

Star Alfieri, who also co-wrote the screenplay, just doesn’t have a strong enough presence to really carry a picture. He also has one of those annoyingly pouty pretty boy looks. Co-star Nell helps add a little contrast by having a French accent and some very practical sensibilities.

Gale Sondegard, Ruth Roman, and Mercedes McCambridge whose picture you see at the top of this post and is probably best known as the voice of the demon in The Exorcist give the film some distinction and are fun to watch even if they are given little to do. This was for all three their final film appearance. Mike Kellin has a great part as a terse art teacher who has a rather intense confrontation with student Alfieri during one of his classes that is pretty good and ends up being the film’s best moment.

You also get a chance to see a John “West Wing” Spencer. He is much younger here with more hair and a mustache and you might only recognize him through his voice.

Overall the movie is ineffective. The direction is competent enough to make it watchable, but there’s no excitement or thrills. With such an interesting idea it could have been and should have been a lot better.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Alternate Title: Living Nightmare

Released: May 31, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Allen Seidelman

Studio: Film Corp

Available: DVD as ‘Living Nightmare’