Thursday, 16 September 2010

Van Damme complains and cries convincingly

I've written before about how all this meta-fiction confuses me. Even Jean-Claude Van Damme is doing it in JCVD. After making ten years of straight-to-video films, self-reflection got him back on cinema screens. Here he plays himself - a tired, exhausted actor who's sick of all these rubbish films. He walks in on a bank heist and, instead of beating everyone up, is thrown in with the rest of the hostages. It's a long way from an action film, as it moves back and forth through shifting perspectives and timelines. It also has chapters with artistic titles, like 'stone falls on egg, egg breaks' (yes, I suppose it would, but what does that have to do with the film?). This 'art' probably also explains why everything looks so washed out and blurry. But never mind, because if nothing else, this film shows that Van Damme deserves to be in better films. He can obviously act, and is a likable enough screen presence to be in the mainstream. I don't think I've seen any of his action films, but watching this made me feel like I had. It starts with a sprawling shot of him in full karate mode, dancing past explosions and throwing people around. When he finishes, the petulant director tells him to do it all again. Van Damme explains that it's difficult for him to do that, as he's forty-seven and quite tired.

If this is all peeling back one layer of fiction, it goes even further by giving Van Damme a six-minute monologue, where he breaks down all sorts of fourth walls (what are the first three?) by talking straight to the camera. He talks about his life in a cryptic way, and seems to get all emotional about it. It's a film making all sorts of points about the relationship between fiction and reality, but I'm not going to go into that - I've finished my English Literature degree now. And it doesn't look like it's started an art-house career revival for Van Damme, so this may be all the crying we see from him.


  1. I don't know how likely I am to see this film, but I am glad that you did and reported on it. I appreciate your sensibility being out and about in the world.

  2. I kind of loved it, because I'm a sucker for metafiction and obliterating that pesky fourth wall. I mean, yeah, it's pretentious, but it's also gorgeously understated. Is that an oximoron?

  3. Universal Soldier is the only one worth seeing. He's actually good in it, and does comedy, so that you laugh, too.
    Whenever you write about a film, good, bad or indifferent reaction, I always want to see it.

  4. Helllo is anyone here?