Thursday, September 4, 2008

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

Brotherhood of the Wolf
When the trailers for Le Pacte des Loups first hit theaters, they did everything they could to not reveal that this kick-ass action movie was, in fact, French. Crafty viewers, like me, saw through the lack of dialogue in the trailer and also read IMDb pages, and so were not fooled. The movie stars Samuel Le Bihan as a French naturalist who returns from the new world to the French countryside to dispose of a beat that is ransacking the peasantry and riling them up against the King. He is accompanied by his stoic "Native American" friend played by Mark Dacascos.1 In the end it turns out that incestuous pagan French noblemen2 are behind the plot in order to discredit the King and seize power themselves.

In some ways the film is steeped in colonialism. The main character brings a Native American from the French colonies. The beast was purloined from the African continent presumably also from a French colony. But we see that while creatures3 are quite powerful, they aren't quite so powerful as a white man, who always has the strength to defeat them. We also see that sickly and somewhat-effeminate males are also easily defeated by these strong men. The only person who could potentially defeat him appears to be a femme fatale,4 however, because of his extreme masculinity and power she seems to fall in love with him and refuses to actually kill him.

Brotherhood of the Wolf
This movie is told through a flashback of one of the lesser characters. While the populace remain outside his palace ready to behead him during the French revolution, he tells the story of a true nobleman and in the end boldly faces his own death rather than running from the torch-bearing peasants. The message seems to be that the aristocracy wasn't actually that bad, though there were a few bad apples, and they actively worked to save the people from terrors.

While there are troubling racial, colonial, classed, and gendered problems throughout the movie, it nevertheless has some pretty awesome action sequences. It also maintains a bit of a fairy-tale like quality. The Big Bad Wolf is slain by the lumberjack and everyone rejoices. The political intrigue also makes it a fun story to plot as you try to figure out who is working for whom, and what their ultimate goals are.

The DVD contains both a subtitled and a dubbed version. Dubbing should be illegal. But if you're too dumb to read, you shouldn't worry, you can still enjoy this movie.

Brotherhood of the Wolf
Notes:
1. Dacascos was born in Hawaii and is actually of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Irish descent. Which I suppose somewhat justifies his casting as The Chairman of Kitchen Stadium on Iron Chef: America.
2. Redundant, I know.
3. I use this term on purpose, because Dacascos character in many ways is treated simply as a noble savage by those who like him, and as a beast by those who do not.
4. In this case, a papal assasin and prostitute played by Monica Bellucci.

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