FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | October 3, 2011
Director: Laurent Achard
Writer: Laurent Achard, Frédérique Moreau
Starring: Pascal Cervo, Austin Morel, Karole Rocher, Mireille Roussel, Noël Simsolo, Brigitte Sy, Charlotte Van Kemmel
Sylvain (Pascal Cervo) is the mild-mannered projectionist at Cinéma Empire, a single-screen art house and repertory theater that is scheduled to close in a few days. In complete denial of the cinema’s impending demise, Sylvain carries on with business as usual, screening Jean Renoir’s French Cancan (1954) twice a day for the theater’s few remaining customers.
Whenever not at work, Sylvain roams the streets to fulfill his gruesome fetish for women’s ears; then, Sylvain dutifully returns to his apartment in the basement of the Cinéma Empire to place his latest “trophy” in a sinister shrine that is dedicated to the memory of his deceased mother. Hidden behind a giant subway poster for Jacques Tati’s Playtime, the cavernous secret room is decorated with creepily mutated photographs of Hollywood stars. It is not until Sylvain’s backstory is filled in by way of flashbacks to his childhood that we can begin to understand the significance of ears, earrings and actresses for Sylvain. A cinephile with some seriously creepy mother issues, Sylvain’s tranquil persona makes this absurd daily ritual all that more shocking.
Visually, Last Screening is gorgeously stylistic ode to giallo cinema that, despite the appearance of a few modern day elements, looks and feels like a product of the 1970s. Functioning as a romantic lament for the twilight of celluloid, the cinematic world created by writer-director Laurent Achard is a place where the past and present coexist. The Cinéma Empire is frozen in time like a time capsule or museum exhibit; but the present has not been very kind to Cinéma Empire, as technological advances and social changes have rendered the traditional business model of one-screen cinemas unprofitable. Sylvain’s brain also seems stuck in the past, playing an endless loop of haunting memories of his mother. Even Sylvain’s character functions as a referential mash-up of two of the creepiest protagonists in film history — Mark Lewis (Peeping Tom) and Norman Bates (Psycho). Like Cinéma Empire, Sylvain is defined by history and his inability to exist in the present is what renders Sylvain a violent social deviant.