Steampunk Meets the Surreal in Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq
Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidoqc is the English title of a French film called simply Vidoqc. Gerard Depardieu plays the title role of Eugene Francois Vidoqc (the father of criminology and a real-life French figure of note), who is an occult detective on the grimy streets of Paris in 1830. He is on the trail of a masked serial killer, the Alchemist, but falls to his supernatural enemy within the first minutes of the film. Amidst the tumult of the outbreak of the Second French Revolution (also known as the July Revolution), Vidoqc’s biographer Etienne (played by French heartthrob Guillaume Canet) tracks down witnesses to fill in the blanks in Vidoqc’s investigation and mysterious disappearance. Meanwhile the Alchemist is still on the prowl and no one is safe from his mysterious powers.
This is a very stylized and disturbing movie, but I would definitely recommend it to fans of the Steampunk gestalt. If you are willing to deal with the subtitles, the special effects and unrepentant window into poverty make for a stunning and surreal adventure which definitely earns it’s R rating.
While watching it I was struck by how foreign it felt, which shouldn’t really surprise me seeing as how it is a foreign film, but it definitely is not a Hollywood movie. First off, the hero is a middle-aged man with a bulbous nose and a thick middle (though he still kicks some serious Alchemist ass when they meet in the flashbacks that make up Etienne’s investigation). The extreme camera angles highlight derelict victims of the streets (think Les Miserables with more underage workers and filth) which is enhanced by jerky motion and makes the enclosed spaces like the glassworks feel downright suffocating. The interior spaces all feel as though they are lit by gaslight, which makes the occasional burst of color really stand out.