23 April 2008 | cinaphile
Effective flick especially if you know about recent riots in France
It's not often you need an overview of recent European history to fully enjoy a horror movie. But Frontier(s) is a special case. All the negative commentary I've read seems to come from the hype surrounding this film. Is Frontier(s) blood-soaked and violent? Sure is! Is it the bloodiest, most repulsively gory film ever? No. I also agree that the basic plot doesn't really venture too far off the path of Hostel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Motel Hell for that matter. But what some people seem to be missing is socio-political climate of France in the last few years. Well, here's where a short French history lesson may come in handy. In October and November of 2005 there were a series of large-scale riots in France that stemmed from the death of two teenagers who lived in a low-income suburb of Paris. They were suspected of a break-in at a construction site and being chased by police. When they tried to hide in a power substation they were electrocuted. The civil unrest that broke out was fueled by unemployment, religious tensions, racial inequality and a growing fear of police harassment. A little over two years later more riots broke out when two more teenagers died after a police car collided with their stolen motorbike. These recent events give Frontier(s) a healthy dose of sub-text as well as a realistic backdrop for its extreme violence. Fear and intolerance are now right beside baguettes and berets as France's main cultural identity. The France seen in Frontier(s) isn't the glossed up version most of us have dreamily romanticized. There are no midnight walks on the Seine. No sipping of espresso at a sidewalk café with the Eiffel Tower in the distance. No scenic tours of the Louvre or the Arch de Triomphe. Writer/director Xavier Gens shows a modern day France that's dark, violent and in anarchy. This is the France that in 2004 banned the wearing of khimars (headscarves) by Muslim girls at school and in 2007 elected Nicolas Sarkozy a right-wing conservative as president. So it should be no surprise that Gens' choice of a Nazi family as the bad guys works as a not so subtle metaphor for the French Government. So, for what it's worth, anyone too myopic to know something about France's current environment probably just won't get what Gens is saying in this film.