First things first, this isn’t a slasher movie. Why then is it on Hysteria Lives!? I hear you ask. Well, I was asked to write a review of this film after it was chosen by Paul Chandler (who kindly donated to help make THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER). However, before you click away think about reading on, as HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT is an intriguing film that shares some of the darker themes of the subgenre and, in some ways, lays the groundwork for the French slasher miniboom that appeared a few years later with films such as HAUTE TENSION (2003) and INSIDE (2007).
|In HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT, Audrey Tautou, as Angélique,begins the film at her whimisical best ...|
Perhaps the biggest selling point of HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT is that it cleverly inverts the French romantic comedy – and its greatest coup was securing Audrey Tautou for its lead. Tautou had already leapt to international prominence the year before with the whimsical AMELIE (a film that dallies with similar themes in a much more light-hearted way). At the start of the movie it appears she is playing very much to type: an elfin art school student named Angélique who is in the bloom of love with a local doctor. In a series of sunny, colourful, and highly saturated scenes she bounces around excitedly like a lovesick kitten, buying a single rose for her lover Loïc (Samuel Le Bihan). He receives the rose at his surgery with an affectionate smile. But not all is as it seems ...
Loïc is married, and his wife is five months’ pregnant. Angélique's friend Héloïse (Sophie Guillemin) is at first sympathetic to the situation, but is surprised that the doctor would be promising to leave his heavily pregnant wife for her. Another friend is a young medical student, David (Clément Sibony), who is clearly in love with her. He becomes increasingly exasperated by the way he believes Loïc is treating Angélique.
The final straw appears to come when the doctor fails to arrive at the airport for a romantic getaway to Florence. She is devastated and takes to mooning up at his window and allowing the place she is housesitting to fall into squalor.
|... but Angélique soon shows her true colours.|
It is impossible to explain the rest of film without giving it away what happens next, but although it is a spoiler it is the sleight-of-hand that the whole film hinges on (and is given away in the synopsis and trailer anyway). At around the hour mark, the film rewinds to the beginning and we see many of the same events but this time from the viewpoint of the doctor. It quickly emerges that Angélique is deranged and the romance with the supposedly hunky medic is all in her head (sadly, he has the body of BAYWATCH and the face of CRIMEWATCH). It all springs from a random, brief encounter that Loïc barely recalls, but Angélique became obsessed with.
Soon the doctor receives declarations of love and gifts (including a huge painting of him), but he has no idea who is sending them. The film shows that the rose he received at the beginning of the film he thought was actually from his wife. He quickly becomes unnerved and his marriage suffers as his wife becomes increasingly incredulous, given the evidence, that he is not actually having an affair. Seemingly innocuous scenes from earlier in the movie are revealed to have a more sinister bent. Angélique arrives at the café she works with a badly bashed moped and injured arm in a scene initially designed to generate sympathy for her. Héloïse is relived she isn’t badly hurt, but we later find out that Angélique ran down the doctor’s wife in an effort to kill her. She doesn’t manage this but she does cause her to miscarry. It soon becomes apparent that she will stop at little to keep her fantasy romance alive …
|Not nearly as explicit as later French slasher movies, but HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT still goes to some pretty dark places.|
Tautou is excellent as Angélique. Rather than a caricature of evil, she comes across as more a little-girl-lost with potential for acts of violence (acts of violence that we never actually see her commit). Essentially, she is the demented, yet still adorable, twin of her character in AMELIE. Although, the fact that she remains perpetually perky, yet violent and unpredictable, she is perhaps a more chilling villain than many other horror movie monsters. In some ways it is a shame that the film does not go full throttle in the visceral way that French genre film was just about to under the direction of the likes of Alexandre Aja, Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. The fatal deterioration of Angélique's mind is represented by the decline in the house she is looking after, and especially the wilting and eventual death on the Bonsai tree she is meant to tend. It is reminiscent – although not as striking - as representation of the descent in madness of Catherine Denuve in Roman Polanski's REPULSION (1965). But like the rest of the movie, the director never quite lets the film completely go to the dark side. In inimitable French fashion, Angélique is always perfectly groomed; even when she’s hit rock bottom and is at her most deranged.
However, the film is still delightfully twisted and is perhaps influenced most greatly by the Takashi Miike's typically perverse AUDITION (1999) – another movie that starts as a light romantic comedy before switching gears entirely into an unremittingly gruelling horror movie. HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT ends on a scene that is both whimsical and frightening when you consider what I likely to happen to the characters after the credits roll.
female:1 / male:1
1) Male miscarried
2) Female has heart attack