Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The unadulterated drivel of some DVDs: ‘Camille’

One thing you’ll find in almost all small towns is a DVD-rental store. Ours went through several owners, with concomitant choice in stock, ranging from a dogged adherence to strictly mainstream movies, through a distinct leaning towards cheesy Kung-Fu and soft porn, to, ultimately, a trickle of buy-ins of straight-to-DVD trash when times got really tight.

Our store has now closed down (surprise, surprise!), so we have to trek to the next town to rent our DVDs – because, when you’re an hour’s drive from the nearest cinema, you take your entertainment options where you can find them.

This only remaining DVD store in the valley is, not to put too fine a word on it, pathetic. It gets in about three new movies a month, and only ever one copy of each.* These are booked out by entertainment-hungry villagers for the next three weeks, and usually by the time you get to see them, they’re so well used that they stick halfway through.

Which is what I sincerely wish had happened to the DVD I rented last night. It really burns my arse that good money is spent on making drivel like this, and that we unwitting consumers then fork out yet more good money to see such rubbish. If they make it onto the rental shelf at all, these DVDs should come with an advisory: ‘Do not waste your time watching this unless your only alternative is eating your own eyeballs.’

Camille (I'm posting the DVD cover here so you'll recognise it and know to avoid it as if your very life depended on it) stars Sienna Miller and James Franco, both goodlooking people (although I never realised Sienna had so many teeth), and also acting veterans Scott Glen and David Carradine. Really, I thought, how bad could it be?

Bad. Not even so bad it’s good. Just very, very bad.

I won’t bother going into the ridiculously stupid plot (full of holes big enough to drive a bus through), the contrived symbolism (Niagara Falls as the dividing line between life & death/captivity & freedom, a decaying blue horse, a cowboy lacking a sense of smell, aaargghghg), the embarrassing script, the obvious and boring musical score, the sheer unbelievability of the characters… I’ll leave that to these critics:

‘The ending of Camille requires a viewer absolutely incapable of cynicism, otherwise the resolution could potentially cave in a skull. [Director] Mackenzie goes for the gold here with a flying blue horse, poetic turns of fate, and a baffling afterlife visitation that apparently the living and the dead can witness. It’s meant to be cute and harmless, preying on romantics, but it registers more as complete absurdity, minus the soothing touch of a capable filmmaker.’ (Brian Orndorf on DVDtalk)

‘While all of this may sound like the makings of a black comedy, it in fact is all played quite seriously. There is no explanation for Camille’s return from death, and once this occurs, the movie becomes steeped in morbid and rather unsettling territory that verges on necrophilia, yet the filmmakers treat it with a sense of preciousness that is totally without irony.’ (Felix Gonzalez Jnr on DVDreview)

Camille [is] a disastrously misguided tragicomedy that offers a whole host of horrible characters set in a wholly absurd storyline.’ (Christopher Null on

And yet, proving that one man’s dead meat is another’s food of love, this is what Louise Keller had to say about Camille on Urban Cinefile: ‘A surprisingly touching black comedy with a twist, this love story starts in earnest after the bride is dead. … But being dead is not enough reason to stop the honeymoon and it’s credit to Sienna Miller and James Franco in the central roles to keep the premise credible as long as it does. The first hour in which we get an insight into the volatile relationship between Camille and Silas holds well but there’s a dip in last half hour, when the film struggles before it finds its resolution. … It’s a road movie, a black comedy and a romance. It’s unusual alright and I like the poetic ending which arrives unexpectedly, just when you wonder how this crazy premise can possibly end.’

From the weasley wording of Louise’s review, I have to assume she’s a personal friend of the director. And if she isn’t, she should be doubly ashamed of herself. It’s people like her that allow this utter tosh to clutter up the already meagrely stocked shelves of some small-town DVD-rental stores.

* It is really astonishing to me that in a valley of about 5 000 people, many of them too poor to have satellite TV but most of them with a DVD player, the DVD-rental business should fare so badly – especially considering that in our nearest ‘big’ town, about 20km away, there are three DVD-rental stores, each with a fast turnover of new movies (and always several copies of each), that do a roaring trade. Why??

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Claudine said...

It's not only small towns that have crap like that. I live in a suburb of Centurion with 3 in walking distance. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from running out of them screaming "my eyes my eyes"!

Reminds me, one time my husband's uncle thought he'd gotten a really shady porn movie - the title was Let's get Laid....about a cop with the name Laid....being chased by more cops....

Muriel said...

Thanks, Claudine, you've cheered me up! I'm about to go and return 'Camille' to the store - I plan to fling it through the return slot with all my strength, in the hope it will 'accidentally' shatter and thus save future viewers from 90 minutes of steadily mounting disbelief.