Festival du Nouveau Cinéma 2009: Dirty Mind

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Dirty Mind
Dirty Mind

Dirty Mind
Directed by Peter Van Hees

Left Bank director Peter Van Hees tries his hand at offbeat comedy in Dirty Mind, which centers around a conceit that seems promising on paper but winds up as the delivery system for a disappointingly familiar experience. Wim Helsem, impressive in his feature debut, stars as meek stuntman’s assistant Diego, who seems to limp from job to job without leaving much of an impression while his more sociable brother Cisse (Robbie Cleiren) gets all the attention. When Cisse’s arrogance laeds to injury, Diego steps in on a particularly dangerous stunt and winds up in the hospital. When he awakes, he only wants to be referred to as Tony T (aka TNT), and suddenly acts with an otherworldly sense of confidence and cocksureness. That’s meant in the most literal sense possible, as he immediately sets his sights on one of his doctors, Janna (Kristine Van Pellicom) who is convinced that Diego has fallen into a dangerous, biologically altered mental state – one that she nevertheless ultimately finds alluring.

Mind opens with promise, teasing grand notions of human nature, the fraglity of sanity, and a general undercurrent of typically black Belgian humor. Helsem, whose transformation from the meek Diego into the rollicking TNT seems both effortless and utterly convincing, carries the film with ease. As his romance with Janna ramps up, however, the film gradually exposes its gears, revealing itself to be a standard-issue “keep ’em separated” rom-com with more explosions. There’s a lot to like on the surface, including Helsem’s fun-loving madman and Peter Van den Begin as Janna’s sad-sack research partner, but there’s a definite downturn of enthusiasm as the film drags on, and Van Hees seems intent on shoving his unwieldy concepts into McKee-friendly boxes, including a frustratingly pat epilogue. It was fun while it lasted.

Simon Howell

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