Kill Me Please -- Film Review

Murderous black farce for absurdist tastes.

PARIS — Belgian filmmakers have in recent years developed a nice line in dark, anarchic comedies, often with social themes, and Olias Barco's Kill Me Please (the original title is in English) is very much in this jugular vein.

Ostensibly the subject of the movie is euthanasia, but Kill Me Please is as much about the rights and wrongs of mercy killing as The Silence of the Lambs was about sheep-breeding. The deadpan absurdist humor will not be to everyone's taste, far from it, but the movie succeeds on its own limited terms and could become a cult hit on campuses, in selected art houses and on the festival circuit.

The action takes place in and around a chateau in the depths of the forest where the urbane Doctor Krueger (Aurelien Recoing) has set up a state-funded clinic to provide a service in "assisted suicide." Among his "patients" are a depressed comic actor (Benoit Poelvoorde); a man (Bouli Lanners) who pledged his wife as the stake in a game of poker and lost; a Canadian travelling salesman (Saul Rubinek) with a brain tumor; Madame Rachel (Zazie de Paris), a cabaret singer whose voice has broken; and sundry other eccentrics and outcasts.

To these Kruger offers counseling, sympathy and the means of self-destruction following the granting of one last wish. Madame Rachel, for example, wishes to bow out after giving a rousing rendition of the Marseillaise to the assembled clients and staff of the clinic.

Despite the reassuring manner and humanistic justifications of Doctor Krueger (for whom "one day suicide will be a human right"), things begin to fall apart amid bickering among the inmates and finally a full-scale armed onslaught by local villagers, launched for unexplained reasons. Bloody mayhem ensues, and few of the characters are left standing by the end.

Filmed in glorious black-and-white in bleak mid-winter settings, the movie barely pretends to have much of a plot but is often wickedly, not to say cruelly, funny. The cameo performance by Poelvoorde alone is worth the price of the ticket. Olias - a self-declared French "exile" who cut his teeth making video clips for Ray Charles - appears to have taken a leaf or two from the book of the 1992 black farce, “Man Bites Dog” (also Belgian, also starring Poelvoorde), and his movie conveys the same sense of being an elaborate tease.

Production credits: La Parti, OXB, Les Armateurs
Cast: Aurelien Lecoing, Benoit Poelvoorde, Bouli Lanners, Stephane Malandrin, Virgile Bramly, Zazie de Paris, Virginie Evrard, Saul Rubinek, Gerard Rambert
Director: Olias Barco
Screenwriters: Olias Barco, Virgile Bramly, Stephane Malandrin
Producers: Didier Brunner, Philippe Kauffmann, Guillaume Malandrin, Stephane Malandrin, Olias Barco
Director of photography: Frederic Noirhomme
Production designer: Manu De Meulemeester
Editor: Ewin Rykaert
Sales: Le Pacte
No rating, 95 minutes

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