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American Translation (Traduit De L'Americain) (18)

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Review byMatthew Turner24/06/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Provocative and powerful, this is a sharply written and superbly acted thriller-slash-romance that generates an intense and frequently disturbing atmosphere.

What's it all about?
Co-directed by Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr, American Translation stars Pierre Perrier as charismatic drifter Christophe, who we first meet half naked and fleeing from the body of a young woman in the woods, so his card is marked from the start. Shortly afterwards, Christophe picks up rebellious young French-American Aurore (Lizzie Brochere) in a hotel bar and drives her out to the woods in his van, where they have lots and lots of sex.

Instead of murdering her, Christophe begins an intense sexual relationship with Aurore and the pair move into a flash apartment owned by her wealthy but frequently absent businessman father (Jean-Marc Barr). However, things take a dark turn when Christophe “accidentally” kills a young male prostitute they hire for a woods-based van romp and Aurore begins to suspect that Christophe may be a serial killer.

The Good
Pierre Perrier (who looks a lot like a Gallic Robert Sheehan) and Lizzie Brochere are both terrific as Christophe and Aurore, spending large chunks of the film naked (expect the scene where a visibly aroused Christophe gives her a naked lap dance to give the BBFC some trouble) and generating a palpable chemistry together.

Perrier delivers a powerfully intense, charismatic and dangerously unpredictable performance, but Brochere is equally good, giving us frequent glimpses of the damaged vulnerability that goes some way to explaining why she falls so hard for Christophe; there's an early post-coital scene where she appears to be coming down from a panic attack and it's one of several memorably disturbing moments because her wild-eyed, heavy-breathing, tearful reactions aren't referred to in the dialogue.

The Great
The script is apparently taken from several different studies of serial killers (including their own testimonies) and explores some provocative related ideas in appealingly French fashion. There are also several moments of dark humour and an achingly hip soundtrack that'll have you rushing home to Spotify. Terrific final scene too.

Worth seeing?
American Translation is an engaging, provocative and frequently disturbing thriller-slash-romance with two terrific central performances from Pierre Perrier and Lizzie Brochere. It would also make an intriguing triple-bill with the likes of Badlands and Natural Born Killers. Recommended.

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Content updated: 26/09/2015 08:29

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