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FLESH OF THE ORCHID
DVD Region 2. Bluebell Films.

Flesh of the OrchidBased on James Hadley Chase's sequel to his infamous No Orchids for Miss Blandish (filmed in 1948 and, as The Grissom Gang, in 1974), this convoluted French thriller has the problem of being the follow-up to a story that most people would be unfamiliar with, and doesn't help itself by simply throwing in several thinly - if at all - defined characters and then slowly building events around them, without bothering to fill in the back story until late in proceedings (and even then, doing so very reluctantly and loosely).

At its core, it features Charlotte Rampling as an heiress who has been unfairly (so it seems at first) institutionalised by her greedy family. Escaping from the hospital in the opening scenes, she eventually hooks up with Bruno Cremer, who is on the run after witnessing a murder by two knife-throwers-turned-hitmen. With the pair being (separately) hunted by the hitmen, the family and various greedy people eager to cash in on a reward, they attempt to escape but are soon drawn into ever more bizarre situations.

Flesh of the Orchid is certainly never dull, but it is frustratingly oblique throughout. It's very much a product of the time and place, as fans of Seventies French cinema will recognise, and makes few concessions to the audience. Rampling is excellent, it must be said - seemingly sane (though her penchant for blinding men who attack her is perhaps a clue otherwise), she manages to tread the line between normality and insanity well. She's the standout in a film where most characters are too thinly drawn to impress.

Patrice Chereau directs with a sure hand, and the dour look of the film is perfect for the story. But this is a mixed bag that could annoy as much as entertain, so be warned - it's not for all tastes.

DAVID FLINT

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