31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 5: Belphegor – Le fantôme du Louvre (2001)

Reviews of bad movies are fun, because they’re bitchy and wannabe witty (i.e., most recap sites). So I was exceptionally pissed off when I realised that not only did I like this movie, but that it was also a total putrid, congealed clot of Camembert, so I’m unable to give this movie the bad review I’ve been so desperate to unleash.

The plot is thus: Set in and around Musée du Louvre (and the first film to have ever been filmed there; no, I did not see the fucking Da Vinci Code), Belphegor – Le fantôme du Louvre is a mummy movie. Expect all the cliches – plagues, artifacts, rituals, tragic backstories, plundering, decoding hieroglyphics, and incantation-based legends. Recently single, Lisa (Sophie Marceau) lives with her grandmother Geneviève (Patachou) above their struggling shop, opposite the Musée.

Belphégor – Le fantôme du Louvre

 

After her grandma encourages her to flirt with electrician Martin (Frédéric Diefenthal), the two end up sneaking into the Musée at night. They both do a wee bit of wandering, unaware that there’s a fantôme lurking about, and Lisa is unwittingly possessed by an ancient Egyptian spirit with some burial-related unfinished business. The movie then proceeds to have Lisa play cultural appropriation dress-up, kill/maim some guards, yell at museum-visiting schoolchildren for drawing incorrect hieroglyphics, and just take her sweet (unexplained) time just wandering around the Musée on subsequent days and nights. Which is odd, because you’d think that someone who’s just been evicted from her shop couldn’t possibly afford all those pricy Louvre tickets.

Belphégor – Le fantôme du Louvre

 

Meanwhile, working on the case, we’ve got a kooky British scientist (Julie Christie, speaking horrible French but still way better than the rest of us on holiday because at least she’s making a fucking effort), kooky security guards, and a kooky, rockstar-loving Inspector (the scene-stealing and sadly late Michel Ferrault), who has every one of the film’s best lines.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 02.00.46

 

It’s a shame that the Scooby-esque “coming together and forming a plan” thing doesn’t happen until the last third of the movie, and instead we get to see almost an hour of characters avoiding each other, fighting with each other, and/or dribbling out plot points in drip-feed. I wouldn’t blame you if you started to nod off at the 50-minute mark.

Belphégor – Le fantôme du Louvre

Belphegor – Le fantôme du Louvre is every bit as panto-cheesy as the above poster and IMDb rating suggest (Netflix US, on which I watched it, was equally unkind). It’s full of 90 year-old Egyptian fantasy horror tropes, and the plot sort of meanders about from set piece to set piece. Some of the principal characters don’t have the conversations that one would expect from such scientific/investigative/security-conscious professionals (and which would have lowered the movie’s body count). The special effects are abominable. The comically Egyptian-inspired score is borderline racist. And the ending just sort of happens. But for some reason I couldn’t stop enjoying it. It was like being a dumb kid at the cinema and watching The Mummy all over again.

Belphégor - Le fantôme du Louvre

Maybe it’s the ever-watchable Marceau, or her striking chemistry with Diefenthal. Maybe it’s Julie Christie’s embarrassingly slow French accent, or the did-I-mention-he-was-fucking brilliant Michel Serrault. Maybe it’s the gorgeous setting of the Louvre that I’m dying to see (despite the fact that France was basically next door to me growing up and I never got the chance to go when I did visit Paris). Or maybe it’s the fact that everything in this movie is truly played for laughs.

Belphégor – Le fantôme du Louvre

It’s a cute movie. Watch it on the Eurostar or something. I suggest a drinking game: every time someone takes a potshot at the British Museum, drink everything.

 

 

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