A quintessentially 1990s Canadian serial killer drama that frankly
isnít very good. Pivoting on Gen-X angst, its overall vibe is summed up
by the poster tagline "Welcome to Love in the 90's," and also its
trailer, which concludes with the line "Because life's a bitch, and
then you die."
The director of LOVE AND HUMAN REMAINS (1993) was
Quebec's sometimes-great Denys Arcand, a veteran of the Canadian film
scene who was coming off his two finest-ever films: THE DECLINE OF THE
AMERICAN EMPIRE (1986) and JESUS OF MONTREAL (1989). LOVE AND HUMAN
REMAINS, based on the play UNIDENTIFIED HUMAN REMAINS AND THE NATURE OF
LOVE by Brad Fraser, was taken on by Arcand after the collapse of a far
more personal and ambitious film project.
It was released in much of the world in a 100 minute
English language version (the one under review here) with minimal
success, but it also exists in a longer French language version that is
said to be even less watchable.
The thirtyish David is a former television actor who
currently works in a "more artistically satisfying" occupation: heís a
waiter in a swank Toronto restaurant. He lives with Candy, a book
reviewer David once dated--even though he's gay--and hangs around with,
and sometimes assists, a psychic dominatrix named Bonita. Candy, for her
part, is still in love with David, and lives in a state of constant
frustration. Also afoot in the area is a serial killer who's mutilated
several young women.
Candy meets Jerri, a lesbian schoolteacher, in a gym.
Jerri pursues Candy quite aggressively, inspiring her to consider
lesbianism. David, meanwhile, gloms onto Kane, a teenage busboy David
takes to be serviced by BonitaÖand the killer claims more victims.
Candy allows herself to be seduced by Jerri, but finds
the experience unsatisfying. David isn't doing much better, and is
shocked at seeing Kane out with a girl. For that transgression David
humiliates Kane by having him bare his ass to him, only to abruptly walk
Candy takes up with the studly womanizer Robert, who
she allows to have sex with her condom-less. She decides she's in love
with Robert, not noticing certain warning signs, such as the earrings
littering his floor (stolen earrings, FYI, are the serial killer's MO).
Further bad news arrives in the form of a phone call from one of David's
former lovers confessing that he's HIV positive. David attempts to
assuage his upset by visiting Bonita, who senses something really bad is
about to happen--and indeed she's right!
Denys Arcand deserves credit for creating such an
unpredictable, genre-twisting film, even if it is far too clever and
self-satisfied for its own good (sample dialogue exchange: "My
friends are homosexual." "So are mine but I'm not a lesbian!").
Arcand was evidently trying to capture the zeitgeist in the manner of
quirky early-nineties Canadian dramas like Atom Egoyan's EXOTICA and
Charles Biname's ELDORADO, but was far less successful.
The fact that the two protagonists are both thoroughly
vile and unpleasant individuals is a problem. The film further suffers
from by-the-numbers shock scenes that fail to shock; Arcand apparently
pared the serial killer business down considerably from Brad Fraserís
original play and script, to the point that it often seems incidental to
the main story. The erotic aspects arenít much better, with (for
instance) the pointed intercutting between Candy getting it on with
Jerri and Thomas' exploits in a nightclub registering as plain annoying.
There are some on-target scenes here and there, most
notably a climactic one in which Candy deliberately embarrasses David by
trying on provocative outfits for Kane. Also impressive is the
photography by Paul Sarossy, which has a pleasingly dark, sensuous sheen
that favorably recalls his work on (much better) films like EXOTICA, THE
SWEET HEREAFTER and AFFLICTION.
Of the actors, Mia Kirshner fares the best. Kirshner
has come to all-but specialize in quirky sex goddess roles (in EXOTICA,
NEW BEST FRIEND, THE L WORD, etc), of which her turn as Bonita the
psychic dominatrix is a standout example.
LOVE AND HUMAN REMAINS
Max Films/Atlantis Films
Director: Denys Arcand
Producer: Roger Frappier
Screenplay: Brad Fraser
Cinematography: Paul Sarossy
Editing: Alain Baril
Cast: Thomas Gibson, Ruth Marshall, Cameron Bancroft, Mia Kirshner,
Joanna Vannicola, Matthew Ferguson, Rick Roberts, Aidan Devine, Robert
Higden, Sylvain Morin, Ben Watt, Karen Young, Serge Houde, Alex Wylding,