DISMEMBERCEMBER: Calvaire (2004)

Directed by Fabrice Du Welz, who wrote it with Romain Protat, this is the story of Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas), a struggling singer who lives in his van as he performs soft rock for nursing home residents. As he drives toward a Christmas concert, his van breaks down and he’s helped by former stand-up comedian and innkeeper Mr. Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), yet if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never break down in the European countryside, particuarly in the kind of town where the locals gather to watch a boy lose his virginity to a pig and the only sign of women are the naked selfies a fan (Brigitte Lahaie!) gave to our protagonist.

Gloria, Bartel’s wife, left him years ago but not before destroying him, sleeping with every man in town, an event that has seemed to decimate everyone in her wake. Marc must now pay for her sins, his van burned, his head shaved and his body wearing one of her old dresses, now on the run from everyone as they chase him through a muddy cemetery and treat him as if he were a dog.

This has a horrifying scene where Bartel screams at the bar in town and says that his wife has come back and no one can have her while men play strange waltz music out of synch and then everyone starts to dance with each other. There’s also a speech about the meaning of the season ended with a bullet through the head and the first time I’ve seen a quicksand death in a movie for a long time.

The director says that there are only two characters in the film, Marc and Bartel, and everyone else is just another version of Bartel. That makes more sense after you watch this. Just you know, maybe save your Christmas viewing after the family has said good night.

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