Experiencing “That cold dead look…”

That Cold Dead Look in Your Eyes-Review by Jen Bush

Have you ever heard a song that made you immediately start tapping your feet?  It’s so hooky that you are singing along by the second chorus, and it stays in your head.  The lyrics are secondary to the overall experience of hearing and liking the song.  That’s precisely That Cold Dead Look in your Eyes. 

We meet Leonard (Franck Raharinosy) who is a cook living and working in New York City.  No matter what else is going on in the film, the main concrete premise is that Leonard’s life is a disaster.  Everything else branches from that.  The mysterious flashing black boxes that appear all over New York City may have something to do with the strange behavior and hallucinations that people are experiencing, especially Leonard. 

A lot of scenes take place in the restaurant where Leonard works.  Leonard is apparently the worst cook in New York City.    His job hangs in the balance.  His girlfriend Marie (Nora Arnezeder) breaks up with him due to his infidelity, but he is still stuck at their shared apartment while she is away and he is looking for new digs.   He’s in danger of losing his girlfriend, home, job, motorcycle and finally his sanity.  To complicate matters, Marie’s father Dennis (Alan Ceppos) comes to stay at the apartment.  That’s where the fun begins.  The entrance of this character brings about some of the funniest and darkest humor in the film.  Dennis, a well-known photographer wants to have his photography exhibited in a NYC art gallery.  When the gallery owner deems Dennis’ art “safe”, Dennis ups the ante by having a nude homo-erotic photo shoot/dance party in the apartment much to Leonard’s dismay. Dennis infiltrating Marie’s and Leonard’s apartment was reminiscent of the scene in Cable Guy where Jim Carrey’s character throw’s a party with all these bizarre misfits. 

A recurring and hysterical theme in the film is the toilet being clogged.  Dennis brags about his enormous bowel movements which fill him with pride, but he refuses to unclog the toilet because his hands are reserved for art.  The nude models implore Leonard to fix the toilet because they’re all eating cheese.

Leonard’s journey takes him down a road of hallucinations.  At times the story gets murky because the lines of fantasy and reality are blurred.  The film partially relies on flashbacks which are in color while the rest of the film is in black and white.  The film is also mostly in French with subtitles and some dialogue in English.  All these factors lead to a bit of disorientation for the viewer.  Instead of being able to fully comprehend what’s going on in the film, perhaps the filmmaker wants us to be unwitting extras experiencing the hallucinations right along with Leonard.

The cinematography is stunning and captures the pulsating essence of the city with a complimentary musical score.  The scenes in which Leonard is riding his motorcycle through the city are particularly magnificent.

The entire cast did a fantastic job of bringing these complex characters to life.  Alan Ceppos as Dennis stole the show!  His stellar portrayal of narcissistic, obnoxious and temperamental photographer Dennis was brilliant!  Everything he did and said was utterly outrageous and fun to witness.  You might recognize Max Casella who is currently in the series Tulsa opposite Sylvester Stallone.  He is the only character whose lines were all in English.  He was exceptional and funny as Leonard’s frustrated boss.

The artistic choices contributed to the overall feeling of the film.

Artsy cinematography.  Especially the shots where Leonard is riding his motorcycle through the pulsating city paired with a complimentary score.  Alan, persnickety, lacks self-awareness.  Narcissistic.  The fractured way the movie was shot, ie, fluctuating between black and white, French and English.   Themes of hedonism, nightmarish, dark humor. 

The happenings in the apartment could be metaphors for Leonard’s increasing loss of control.

In That Cold Dead Look in your Eyes there’s an imbalance of exposition and artsiness with the scales skewed toward art.  I’m not even sure if I liked the film but I didn’t turn it off.  The audience will be as intrigued as I was and will be seeking answers that may never come.  Is it a sci-fi, horror, zombie, arthouse or thriller film?  You can decide that.  It’s best to just sit back, enjoy the ride and take in the absurdity of it all.


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