Les Pacte Des Loups (2001), by Pope Gryphon

Before I even begin this review, I must pre warn you all that this is, without a shadow of doubt, my most favourite film in the whole world. With that now nestled firmly within the woody nest of your mind, I shall endeavour to remain unbias in this particular review.
The film is awesome, sell your children, go out and buy it.

Unfortunately I am informed that as reviews go, this is a little too short to fill my particular section, thus allow me if you will, to flesh out my argument that this is an absolute masterpiece of creativity that should not be ignored.

How to describe Les Pacte Des Loups? Well, as you may have divined from the title of this movie, it is a French made film brought to you by the director Christophe Gans. If the name rings any bells then it may be because this is the same man that brought you movies such as Silent Hill and the live action version of Crying Freeman, two celluloid strips of underrated visual beauty.

It is an understatement to say that Christophe Gans knows cinematography. It’s like saying that Zakk Wylde is an average guitarist or Hitler would have been substandard as a team building excercise co-ordinator. It’s like Mr Gans sees through one coloured lense at any time, then liberally sprinkles said shade across the entire landscape through the art of coincidental foliage, accidental tailoring and unplanned mainsonary. For example, he’ll film an entire scene using reds and browns wherein red coated huntsmen ride brown stallions through red and brown leafed trees. Sure, there are other shades and colours dancing around, the humble green of grass and the pale pinks of skin, but there always seems to be some preferred colour being splattered before your eyes. In addition, he knows how to play the stark contrasts, dashing crimson on white or gold against black. It’s like he couldn’t stand to be a painter as he’d only be able to create one frame at a time and he has a whole world ready for his brushstrokes.

So, that’s my visual praise of the director over and done with. Lets get on with what this movie is all about.

Les Pacte Des Loups, or as it is known in the UK, The Brotherhood Of The Wolf, is..hm…how best to describe this? A romantic-horror-thriller-period-drama-martial-arts movie. Yes, I know you’ve seen many of these before, so why is this particular romantic-horror-thriller-period-drama-martial-arts movie any different to all those others? Well bear with me and I’ll explain.

The film is set in the 18th century in middle France, where an unknown beast is slaughtering the peasants. The King of Paris is somewhat concerned by the continuing reports he is receiving, so dispatches Chevalier de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a royal botanist among many other things, to look into this. Along with his native American pal, Mani (Mark Dacascos) he travels to the small town of Gevaudan to investigate the rumours without so much as a sandwich munching talking dog to aid them.

It is perhaps important to note that France is a place that borders upon revolution, where nobility spit upon the poor from great heights, where schooling is only for those who can afford the exhorbitant bills, where the fear of God is rife and the world about them is a place of as yet undiscovered mystery. De Fonsac is a man of the world, a scientifically thinking member of the new breed of rational men picking apart the superstitions of the country. Mani, on the other hand, is a tribal shaman, a spirit guided hunter and a combat specialist. It is a more perfect combination than Riggs and Murtaugh ever were.

The citizens of Gevaudan are a snobbish lot, with a pious priest, a playwrite of questionable skills, lords and ladies with their noses turned firmly upwards and a host of old world fearing peasants. Lodged within the stories breast are the siblings, Jean-Francois (Vincent Cassel), a one armed hunter returned from safari, and the beautiful Marianne (Emilie Dequenne), the innocent woman raised with the temprament of the uppity. It is very easy to spot that Marianne is our romantic interest within this movie, although her brother would certainly have it otherwise. To add to matters, we also have De Fonsac’s seeming infatuation with the intellectually enigmatic whore, Sylvia (Monica Belucci).

So our story travels on, the dynamic duo with their perfect rapport (truly, the script and acting displays brillaint chemisty) continue to investigate the varying strange sightings, embarking on hunts with the local fur clad nutjobs that wander the countryside spoiling for fights like todays Chavs, assaulting superstition or embracing it with open arms. There are subtle nuances lurking in every corner, plays on visuals, assaults on thinking and continuing battles between the old world and the new.

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that at the heart of this movie lies a horror story, based loosely on actual events or not. It is a movie of pure visual joy, witty exchange and luxurious stretches of mental pampering. It delivers something that Hollywood fails at so often and that is delivering the viewer action that makes us feel more intelligent for having seen it. That’s not to say you’ll reach new heights of thought by watching this movie, but it is to say you will feel like you just enjoyed a live classical composition at the Albert Hall before returning home to your Ace Of Base loving housemates in Peckham.

There is perhaps only one downside, and that is the weighty length of the movie itself. You feel that you’ve watched an entire film at one point and then it continues on with more. It isn’t an awful thing in all honesty as the story telling unfolds meticulously rather than at a crammed pace, but as I watch this movie for the gazzilionth time, it becomes more noticable and I do wonder if my latest victim forced to sit beside and partake in this rich delicacy is in fact growing edgily bored.

Despite this reservation, I can not recommend this movie more. It is entertainment wrapped silk, horror served with garnish and romance boxed with grit. It is both beauty and the beast in one, with a cast of the French speaking debonair pouring their expert renditions into a melting pot that delivers the cerebral goods. It’s keep your brain on martial arts, the type that is hard to quantify with mere words. Seriously, I challenge anyone to watch this film and find a genre that can acurately describe it in full.

Thankyou for allowing me to share one of my most precious gems with you. Now go sell your children.

Sylvia: Do you know how Florentine women ensure their husbands come home? Every morning they slip him a slow poison and every evening the antidote. That way, when the husband spends the night away, he has a very bad night.