As a big fan of the collaborative efforts of Jean Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children), I had been anxious to see what sort of film Caro would make on his own, seeing as how Jeunet's seemingly moved on to more "traditional" fare (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement). After seeing Caro's sci-fi horror mindwarper, Dante-01, I'm glad to say the man's vision is just as twisted and unconventional as ever - even if his narrative skills are a bit rusty.
Dante 01 is an asylum in space, orbiting a remote planet, and inhabited by doctors who are seemingly as barmy as the inmates they watch over. The arrival of both a new doctor, Elisa (Linh Dam Pham), and a mysterious mute patient (Lambert Wilson) throws a wrench into the works of Dante 01, as the brash young Elisa brings with her new controversial techniques that undermine the authority of tenured psychiatrist, Persephone (Simone Maicanescu) while the mute patient - dubbed Saint-Georges by one of the inmates - brings something far more devastating. Elisa's new "treatments" have an adverse reaction on one of the patients, leading to his demise. Saint-Georges, however, is somehow able to "devour" whatever it was that killed the man, and resuscitates him. This splits both the doctors and inmates off into two groups; those who think Saint-Georges is some kind of messiah, and those who fear his power, and the two groups square off with predictably disastrous results.
Brimming with religious subtext and pseudoscientific suggestions that aren't so much intriguing as they are confusing, Dante 01 is a dark and quirky sci-fi/horror hybrid buried under the weight of its own ambitions. Caro's heady ideas are slogged down in perfunctory dialogue, a stilted narrative, and a sort of nightmare logic that derails what is otherwise a visually stimulating (and quite violent) film. Lambert Wilson and Caro/Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon turn in strong performances, and Caro's directorial style is just as wonky and surreal as ever, but Dante 01 lacks the black humor and elegance of his previous works. It's still a mildly effective bit of psychological sci-fi horror, but, considering its pedigree, I expected more.
Dimension Extreme releases Dante 01 with a trailer for this and other releases, as well as a brief making-of featurette.