Monday, November 3, 2014

Chloe (1996) 4 out of 4

**entire review contains mild SPOILERS**

Chloe was made for French TV, but it's as good as most theatrical films.  It's a cautionary tale about the beautiful, emotional title character (Marion Cotillard in her breakthrough role), a 15 year old whose youthful impulsiveness leads to tragedy.
Tired of mom controlling her, Chloe runs away to an unnamed city in France.  Lonely, she thinks about returning home but misses the last train, so she curls up on a train station bench.  This is where Jean-Michel finds her.  A handsome rogue in a leather jacket, Jean-Michel charms the young girl, offering her a place to stay and even waiting a few days before having sex with her.
Chloe is a bright girl and has decent self-esteem, but she's simply too young to understand the big, bad world.  She ends up used and abused, the plaything of a stream of men with the cash for entrance to a dingy flat.
In order to preserve the film's impact, I won't give the details about how Jean-Michel and his friends fool Chloe, however it is fascinating, and as specific as the procedure vampires use to turn their victims.  (Vampires are a metaphor for exploitation, anyway.)
The cast is superb.  Cotillard is an immediate star, commanding the screen with her beauty, charisma, and talent.  Anna Karina plays her friend Katia, a lonely woman who runs a nightclub.  Chloe doesn't want to end up like Katia, but that is exactly why she should listen to her.
I'm giving this film my highest score, not because it's one of the best films ever made, but because there's nothing I would change about it.  The filmmakers went a little heavy on the sepia tone (judging from the amazon print I saw), but they're giving the film a smooth glamour to drive home that this could happen to any girl, even the girls in the romantic, dreamy movies we've seen.  Lies and tragedy don't always come with neon signs, and sometimes a pimp might be a Gallic James Dean.
(On the other hand, it reminds me of a film that took the gritty, low-budget approach: What Alice Saw.  Also worth seeing: House of Pleasures.)
If I had a daughter, I'd give her this film to see.  It's an effective, involving drama with superb actors and production values, all of which makes it powerful as a cautionary tale.     

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