Movies I missed in 2008: Vinyan

With only 20 hours seperating me from the year 2009, it’s time to make my Best of 2008 lists. Of course no movie list can be complete, for the simple reason noone can see every film made in the course of one year. Apart from those you skipped willingly (Hancock, Disaster Movie, etc.), there’s those you never heard of (no examples here – for obvious reasons) and those you never got round to seeing. My list of missed movies includes There Will Be Blood (which will appear in lots of top 10s, I assume) and… Vinyan.

Vinyan is the second movie by Fabrice du Welz, the Belgian talent behind Calvaire.
His second movie is set in Thailand and focuses on the day of the tsunami and the months thereafter. A mother (played by Emmanuelle Béart) is convinced her young son didn’t die during the tsunami and is desperate to find him after seeing video footage of some kids in the middle of the Thai jungle. She believes one of those boys is her son. With the help of her husband (Rufus Sewell) she goes on a quest to retrieve her son.

If all that sounds a bit like a drama, think again and mainly think of Vinyan‘s predecessor, Calvaire. Du Welz is an author (he writes and directs his movies) of movies you can’t stick into one category. Vinyan seems to combine drama, ghost stories and horror… well, that’s what I could determine from the clips I saw.

For some reason it only played one or two weeks near me and one week I was far too busy to go and watch a movie, the other I was struck by a cold. Première has three extracts of the film and the opening sequence of the film. I liked most of those clips, so it’s quite possible the movie would’ve ended up in my Top 10 (I didn’t think it was a great year for cinema, to be honest). I guess I’ll have to post an update once this will be released on dvd.

For now… if Vinyan is still coming to your country, be sure not to miss it. Here’s the link to the opening sequence (all clips are in English with French subtitles) and if you click on the right side of the screen, you can also catch three extracts from the film and the trailer.

(Thanks to for the images)

Black XXX-Mas (B, 1999)

This short movie was the third short from the Belgian company Striker Productions. Their first film was Striker Bob, a zombie movie with a scene at the sea. When shooting was finished the crew left the beach, forgetting all about the props (clothes and fake corpses) they’d used for the shoot.
The next morning the local polices was wondering if there’d been a black mass at the sea… no, officer, just a small movie company.

After their second, the very funny Los Taxios (about two Dutch tourists stuck in the taxi of a madman, who’s keen on showing them the ugly side of Brussels), Striker managed to get more money for their third movie, Black XXX-Mas.
And it shows. The script may not be as tight as Striker Bob or Los Taxios, but Black XXX-Mas looks good and has a raunchy sort of quality that made this one of Atom Films’ favourite movies.

A short summary shouldn’t be necessary, but if you insist:

Once upon a time there was reality. Now in reality, there are no good and bad guys. There are just bad guys and guys that are worse. This tale is an updated, megaviolent Little Red Riding Hood and is definitely not suitable for the kiddies.

It used to be on Atom (link seems to be gone), but now it’s been put on YouTube. So enjoy!

(Warning, the video above is a horror spoof and may not be suitable for minors. Watch it at your own risk.)

Thomas est amoureux

Between February 2003 and May 2004 I had the chance to introduce movies to a crowd of students. Noone believed it could be done (at least not more than once), but in total there were 30 movies shown and introduced by me. From better known films (Requiem for a Dream, Fucking Amal, Ghost in the Shell) to the more obscure (The Company of Wolves and B. Monkey were both seen by one person), the list contained weird features one wouldn’t believe one could see in a school building (be it after hours). And yes, why shouldn’t one combine Requiem for a Dream (2001) with The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916)? Or show “Tesis” with a few scenes from “Snuff” during my introduction?

Some films never made it to the final 30: amongst them “Quien Puede Matar A Un Nino?” (Spanish without subtitles… bit too diffucult), “The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue” (one zombie movie per season was enough) and Thomas est amoureux. Mainly because of the tagline “the doctor ordered cybersex” and the first scene (cybersex) which would be shown around the time most teachers would leave the vicinity (I was already under fire for showing too much horror…).

Which is a shame because “Thomas est amoureux” is definitely part of Belgium’s film history. Not because it did exceptionally well (I believe 0.1% to 0.3% of the Belgians saw it at the cinema), but because the movie was shown on a cinema site a week before it opened. It was a Tuesday night, around 8pm and if you were online you could watch the streaming of this film (totally ‘gratis’!).
It’s still relatively unknown… it’s rarely shown on tv (once on a Dutch channel well after midnight, once in Wallonia around 9pm) and the ugly DVD isn’t something people would like to buy.

“Thomas est amoureux”, contrary to what’s said on the DVD or how it was marketed to the Dutch audience (when shown on tv), is not a sex movie. Yes, it does start with a cybersex scene. Yes, there’s more sex later in the film. Still, one wouldn’t say “The French Connection” is a movie about cars.

So what is the film about? It’s about Thomas, who is extremely agoraphobic. He communicates with the outer world via his computer. He never leaves his place and noone is allowed to visit him.
As a viewer, you’ll see what Thomas sees: whatever happens on his computer.

“Thomas est amoureux” is futuristic, but it is quite clever: the virtual world looks very virtual. Most movie aim for realism, with the result that the movie is already old-fashioned by the time is released. Which is why the penguin in “Fight Club” is still relevant now, whereas “Men in Black” is famous for being out of time by the time it was released on video/DVD.
All the settings from “Thomas est amoureux” look totally unreal, but as there is always an actor present in this weird setting you’re willing to accept it.

Being from Belgium, I know how hard it is for a filmmaker to raise money for your film. Most movies are made for budgets a beggar would complain about. The only exceptions are usually tacky family movies with our biggest comedians or movie adaptations of overly promoted kids tv. “Alias”, a Belgian thriller (I’d say giallo), was made for a ludicrous amount of 2.5 million Euro. Most films are allowed to cost 1 million at most.
With that knowledge, it’s amazing to watch “Thomas est amoureux”. How can a movie, made for a shoe-string budget, look so nice?

Each director will have to put up a exhausting fight to get his next film made. It’ll often take 5 years before a next film can be made. “Thomas est amoureux” was Pierre-Paul Renders’s first film (in 2000) after a short in 1992. His second feature, “Comme Tout Le Monde” will be made in 2006.

“Thomas est amoureux” isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a very exceptional film. It’s hard to think of other movies that’ll fall into this category. And if you’ll think of the shoe-string budget it was made for, you’ll love it even more.