Burning Shadow (2018)

Director: Alexandre Nahon.
Starring. Matthew Dennis Lewis, Russell Dennis Lewis, Roxanne Mesquida, Roger Guenveur Smith, Richard Edson, Julie Delpy, Sal Landi. USA/France. 1h 28m.

This is one of those films you stumble on and while you might not be able to really appreciate it in its entirety you can’t fault it’s delivery. Often the film is described in such a way that sells it so short, but without any facilities it is indeed about a man who is down on his luck and obsessed with a stripper, by chance, he meets a homeless man who’s his double who he invites him into this life. Don’t let this fool you there’s so much more bubbling away under the surface of this dreamlike fantasy film with a huge sinister overtone that plays on perception of reality.

Charlie (Lewis), is in a dead end job, flipping tables at a diner owned by a totally incomprehensible Julie Deply, often he has to skip out of his hotel window to avoid the landlady asking for overdue rents, the only reason he has no money, is that he spends every penny to see his favourite European stipper at the local club. And each day he marvels at the local kingpin, Mr Jones (Guenveur Smith) a cool latino who uses the relaxed diner as a halfway office, sat at his favourite booth with his mostly silent Frenchmen henchmen (Edson)who clearly is a character you don’t want to fuck with but they have an understanding and respect between all three of them, mostly based on fear more than admiration.

The most interesting character to walk into Charlie’s life comes in the guise of an old time bartender named Stanley (Landi). During their film noir styles encounter, Stanley asks Charlie what he would do if he had a chance to change his life, he gifts him a momento and they part ways, this is when the movie does something quite special.

Throughout Nahon’s somewhat confusing spectacle, a number of changes casually take place, Charlie gains this new confidence to go out and take what he wants in life, he schedules a meeting with his dream girl, it’s an incredibly awkward scenes, as he’s totally besotted with the girl and is talking about their life together while she’s coked out of her head and doesn’t know him from any other punter, Lewis has this slow and easy approach to his role, he delivers his dialogue as if English isn’t his natural language but the whole movie feels like a slow moving dream, as if the characters are coming out of a deep thought and trying to catch up with the world around them, apart from Julie Deply who’s just scatty and batshit crazy, I for one didn’t understand a single line of dialogue, maybe Tommy Wiseau helped out?

So now that Charlie has his plan in action, he just needs the funds to get a new life with his “girl” but this is a man who can’t pay his rent, instead he bumps into a blind hobo that looks very familiar to him. After sneaking this hobo into his home a strange relationship builds up a sort of controlling father and child, teacher and student set up where he attempts to tutor the blind veteran to the point of controlling him, but they form a bond, but still he needs funds to run away with the love of his life and he has a dark Eureka moment.

Nahon has a brilliant way of unfolding this unusual movie, his filming techniques are incredibly sensitive when the human body is involved but otherwise the rest of this shit hole town is just a disgarded desert town with not much to its name. But the narrative hinges on a Faustian bargain, actually it’s not even a bargain it’s an offer which is snapped up before the bargain can really be outlined but it’s never illuminated in the film, it just happens without pomp and ceremony.

It feels like a foreign film, there’s so much which comes from a time and place that no one is really familiar with and through the out of touch dream sequences and timed deliveries I felt hypnotised as the movie clawed to the heart of the matter until the bitter and firey end which took a dark turn. The final twist and truth path of the movie is quite profound but for most of the journey the viewer is more concerned with what’s on the screen so the final message hits with a fierce veracity, for me the movie is secretly quite brilliant more in reflection, certainly a slow burner but with so much character to fall in love with.

Rating 7/10

RThe Most Fun You Can Have Dying (2012), Sexes très opposés (2002), Despite the Night (2015), Our Futures (2015)
L – Dopplegangers
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