Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
AFI’s EU Showcase ’14: Waste Land
is the Col. Kurtz of Belgian art dealers. He has definitely embraced the heart
of darkness in the Congo. He even has his personal “witch doctor.” It is not
clear that he really believes, if the cop pursuing him believes he believes, or
even whether the cop starts to believe himself. Regardless, Det. Leo Woeste is
in for a rough final investigation in Pieter Van Hees’s Waste Land (trailer
screens during the AFI’s 2014 EU Film Showcase.
is your basic cop on the edge. He tries to me a good husband and a responsible father
to the step-son he has helped raise since infancy, but he has seen some terrible
things. The fact that his new partner, Johnny Rimbaud, is a coke-fueled hedonist
hardly stabilizes his erratic mood swings. When his wife Kathleen announces her
pregnancy, but doubts the wisdom of keeping the baby, Woeste promises to retire
from the force and start acting normal. Unfortunately, he has one last case to solve.
an African immigrant is murdered and dumped in a garbage bag, the initial clues
point towards Géant. Woeste tries to be extra-supportive to the slain man’s
grieving sister, Aysha Tshimanga, perhaps because his fatherly instincts have
been stimulated. However, their relationship soon takes on weird sexual overtones.
She will accompany him to various underground boxing matches and hipster night
clubs, where the throbbing hot house atmosphere will keep his head spinning.
Waste Land flirts with a lot
of genres, but it never fully commits to any. It also injects some clumsy
commentary on imperialism, particularly a running non-joke supposedly claiming Woeste
is descended from Leopold II. Nevertheless, much of the second act
investigation is rather compelling procedural stuff. Unfortunately, the climax
is so self-consciously feverish, it undermines the gritty mystery and ambiguous
genre elements that proceeded it.
there is no denying Dardenne Brothers regular Jérémie Renier puts on a clinic
as Woeste. This is fierce, no-holds-barred,
rub-your-nose-in-the-self-destruction work, but it is never self-indulgent. In
fact, he balances the inward burn with the outward rage quite adroitly. Babetida
Sadjo also finds a spark in Tshimanga that elevates her beyond a mere victim,
while Peter Van den Begin gorges on scenery as the roguish Rimbaud.
Despite its narrative frustrations, Waste Land is a massively stylish film.
Cinematographer Menno Mans makes Brussels look like a real life Sin City, where most of the buildings
are either abandoned warehouses or underground dance clubs. The opening
sequence is especially evocative, in a disconcerting way. Nicely played and skillfully
put together, Waste Land just lurches
out of control down the stretch. Recommended for those who will admire its
ambition, Waste Land screens this
coming Tuesday (12/16) and Wednesday (12/17), as part of the AFI’s EU Film Showcase,
outside of Washington, DC.
Labels: AFI EU Showcase '14, Belgian Cinema