A buxom lass flees across a rocky deserted landscape.
“In 1764 the Beast reached our soil and made it his own,” a narrator intones.on the soundtrack of BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF as the young woman is dragged out of camera range.
Enter soldier/artist/playboy Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his faithful Native American companion, Mani (Mark Dacascos), a Mohawk Iroquois with psychic powers.
(Honest. I’m not making this up.)
The two of them have been sent from Paris by the French king to the remote province of Gevaudan to investigate a series of bizarre murders attributed to a savage wolf-like creature.
Like auteurs such as Quentin Tarentino and Tim Burton,French director Christophe Gans (who co-wrote the script with Stephane Cabel) is a movie geek who channels his influences into his art.
The fact that he shot martial arts movies with a Super 8 camera while still in his teens may explain the balletic fight scenes, choreographed by Hong Kong film vet Phillip Kwok. Gans also credits Italian horror masters Dario Argento and Mario Bava as early influences which could explain the vivid mix of erotic and violent images in the pic.
The French film-maker is also a staunch defender of genre film-makers like John Carpenter and it shows in his shrewd understanding of what makes a good B movie tick.
The film’s eclectic frames of reference are reflected in the cast list. Mark Dacascos is an American action star. French heartthrob Vincent Cassell plays a crippled and corrupt aristocrat. Italian beauty Monica Berlucci is a provocative high class hooker (the only thing she’s hiding is her agenda.)
All of the performers play their roles with a relish befitting the tone of the flick.
M. Le Bihan portrays his character with swashbuckling elan although the role calls for more than just fancy footwork. A casual flirtation with the crippled aristocrat’s younger sister (Emilie Duquesne) deepens into an almost palpable sense of longing even though she remains elusive. The depiction of the romance is chaste but the dialogue sizzles with innuendo.
The ambitious screenplay even draws sly parallels to contemporary society with references to racism and government cover-ups. (The French king’s ministers try to cover up the murders.)
Brotherhood of the Wolf won an award for costume design at the 2002 Cesars (France’s Oscar equivalent) and nominations for production design, sound and music. Kudos as well to Danish lensman Dan Laustsen for some gorgeous cinematography.
All the gleeful delirium of a great B-movie with A-list production values! Quel concept!