Tag Archives: sadism

Buttercup Bill

Buttercup Bill
Buttercup Bill

Format: Cinema

Release date: 4 September 2015

Distributor: Trinity Film

Directors: Émilie Richard-Froozan, Rémy Bennett

Writers: Émilie Richard-Froozan, Rémy Bennett

Cast: émy Bennett, Evan Louison

USA 2014

96 mins

A young girl in a white dress runs out from the woods into a field. Children play games in a hallway, chasing each other, laughing. A girl is spun around in a field, her eyes covered with a yellow strip of fabric. A boy in a cowboy hat stands, smiling, on a wooded path. The meaning of these images is only gradually revealed, but they create an air of tense mystery that persists throughout the striking, compelling Buttercup Bill. Dream-like, elliptical, ambiguous, the debut feature by co-writers and directors Émilie Richard-Froozan and Rémy Bennett is a sun-drenched, erotically charged, Southern Gothic romance about two childhood friends, Patrick and Pernilla, and their cruel, sadistic, yet loving mutual obsession. It’s a film about desperately craving something that you can – and should – never have.

Buttercup Bill starts with the death of a woman named Flora. Pernilla – her friend, her sister, it’s never quite clear – is distraught. Her first act is to leave ‘Patrick’ a phone message, begging for him to come to her. She delivers a poem at the funeral, before descending into a spiral of drugs, alcohol, sex. She wanders drunkenly through neon-lit streets. She leaves more messages. She finds Patrick, finally, in Louisiana, where they’re reunited, their murky past soon inserting itself into the present.

The husky-voiced Rémy Bennett (Pernilla) and Evan Louison terrifically capture the damaged pair, who are like brother and sister, husband and wife, the sexual tension, and jealousy, always palpable. Louison portrays the softly spoken Patrick with a wide-eyed, innocent charm, a good Southern boy. But the problem is that he isn’t good. Or at least not, so he believes, when he’s with Pernilla. Their relationship is intimate, affectionate, yet they continually (especially in one memorable scene) inflict physical and emotional pain on each other, and others. And, as the identity of Buttercup Bill is revealed, and snatched glimpses of the boy and girl become ever darker, it’s clear that their sadistic streak has haunted Patrick and Pernilla since childhood.

In exploring this twisted romance, Richard-Froozan and Bennet have also, refreshingly, if darkly, created an honest, never gratuitous glimpse into female desire. Pernilla is in control of her own urges, an active participant in the games that they play with the people in Patrick’s life – his best friend, a possible girlfriend. A scene in a strip club is seen from the female gaze, Pernilla as fascinated by the dancers as Patrick, Patrick as turned on by Pernilla’s desire as his own. It’s a reminder of just how rare it is to see a film that was not only written and directed, but also produced, by women (Sadie Frost and Emma Comley, and their Blonde to Black production company).

Like the relationship it lays bare, Buttercup Bill is tender, playful, moving and deeply disturbing. It’s beautifully shot, Lynchian in feel, with a vibrant palate imbued with the colours of the south, while the heat of the sun, the moisture in the air, are almost palpable. Although there are definitely moments that feel too staged, too self-aware, the overall originality of the filmmaking, the quality of Will Bates’s atmospheric score, and the sheer forces of nature that are Patrick and Pernilla, make Buttercup Bill a stand-out of the independent scene.

Sarah Cronin

Watch the trailer:

A Quiet Place in the Country

A Quiet Place in the Country
A Quiet Place in the Country

Format: Cinema

Screening as part of Elio Petri: The Forgotten Genius at the ICA, London

Screening date: 11 September 2014

Director: Elio Petri

Writers: Elio Petri, Tonino Guerra, Luciano Vincenzoni

Cast: Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave, Georges Géret, Gabriella Grimaldi

Original title: Un tranquillo posto in campagna

Italy 1968

106 mins

Whenever Franco Nero is asked about Elio Petri, his heartfelt appreciation for the director he worked with only once in his career, performing one of his most demanding roles, is as poignant as it is powerful: ‘Elio Petri is the greatest Italian director of the past, the only Italian director who made 10 films that were completely different from one another.’

This unqualified praise is certainly confirmed by A Quiet Place in the Country, Petri’s foray into experimental horror. It’s a film that demands repeated viewing as it is all too easy to get engrossed in the intricacies of the delirious plot. Once you know how this flamboyantly elusive tale of a troubled abstract painter obsessed with the ghost of a nymphomaniac young countess pans out, you appreciate all the more how brilliantly it is all set up. Blending sex, love, madness, identity crisis, alienation, death, art, consumerism and social commentary in a hypnotic, dazzling visual swirl of bold colours, powerful emotions and artistic expression, it is a feast of experimental visual imagery, but not without Petri’s typically dry, caustic touch.

Franco Nero stars as Leonardo, the young established painter afflicted with self-doubt and reckless fantasies, and looked after by his art dealer lover Flavia (Vanessa Redgrave). In an effort to help Leonardo overcome a creative crisis, she rents a derelict country house that he feels is the perfect place for him to work. But soon after his arrival, the previous owner of the house claims possession of her property in mysterious and increasingly dangerous ways. Mentally unstable and with a fatal weakness for beautiful women and vivid hallucinations, Leonardo gets more and more obsessed with the tragic story behind the elusive, free-spirited Wanda (Gabriella Grimaldi) and soon finds himself pushed to the limits of reality, myth and sadism.

The film’s original score by Ennio Morricone plays no small part in contributing to the moody, feverish atmosphere created in the film, while Petri, who had a passion for modern art, goes to great pains to illustrate the relation between present and past, in sinister and haunting, rather than nostalgic, manner. Perhaps A Quiet Place in the Country is best seen as a submersion in a dream that unfolds buried layers of unresolved affairs – emotional, sexual or psychological – to alluring and puzzling effect.

This review is part of our KVIFF 2014 coverage.

Pamela Jahn