Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In short: Baby Blood (1990)

aka The Evil WIthin

Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou) doesn't have it easy. She's trapped in a relationship with an abusive circus owner (for whom she also works), and doesn't seem have much of an idea about how to get away from him besides throwing herself at random idiots, a technique that, not surprisingly, is not very helpful. The way Yanka checks her weight and looks at her belly suggests that she also believes that she's in the early stages of pregnancy from what goes as her "boyfriend".

A strange sort of rescue begins when the circus's newly bought leopard explodes and the primordial worm creature that lived inside of it slithers into Yanka's belly. The creature (soon to be voiced by director Alain Robak under the excellent nom de plum "Roger Placenta") motivates Yanka to just pack her suitcase and leave.

About a month later, our heroine lives in a run-down building in the worst part of a French city (when in doubt, it's Paris), seemingly going a bit feral and having the rather disturbing habit of having little chats with the thing inside of her - and it answers. The situation gets problematic again when circus boyfriend finds Yanka, and the thing convinces her (it's never getting clear how much of it is mind control, how much Yanka being used to just do what she's told, how much the girl losing her mind, and how much love for her "baby") to kill him. It really, really needs Yanka to drink blood to grow big and strong, you see.

Consequently, our friend from the circus isn't the last asshole (though Yanka is not that particular about her victims) who won't survive his contact with Yanka until this very special pregnancy will be through.

Baby Blood is quite a peculiar film. It's part black comedy, part semi-feminist (of the "all men are dicks" school) horror film about the horrors of pregnancy and the difficulties of a woman surviving the dickishness of men, part drily ironic look at the social mores of urban working class France. That's the sort of combination you don't see every day, and at times, director Alain Robak seems to have his difficulties to keep all of his film's disparate ideas and themes completely under control. Counterintuitively, Baby Blood's episodic narrative structure helps the director hold it together rather than hinders him, because it separates elements of the film that would just not work well when they were kept closer together in a tighter plot.

The film feels more like a loose conglomeration of situations Yanka and her "baby" stumble - or rather drift - into than your usual dramatic narrative, with all the pros and cons that approach to narrative entails.

Obviously, this turns Emmanuelle Escourrou's performance into Baby Blood's main engine - her character is, after all, the only one that is developed throughout the whole of the movie, and is on screen in nearly every scene. Escourrou is really the one who needs to sell us on that whole "creature inside my belly" idea for most of the film's running time, for while Alain Robak's vocoder-ed performance is pretty good (and/or funny), a movie needs a face and a body an audience can believe in. Escourrou is very much up to the task to not only sell a pretty outrageous concept, but also to keep Yanka believable as a human being surrounded by Robak's unpleasant shorthand caricatures of the rest of humanity. The actress's mixture of very French sexuality, painful vulnerability, and underplayed madness is a thing to behold, and truly what keeps Bad Blood from only being the expected series of bloody jokes.


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