Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq is the English title of a French film called simply Vidocq. Gerard Depardieu plays the title role of Eugene Francois Vidocq who is an occult detective on the grimy streets of Paris in 1830. In real life, he was the father of French criminology, and his misunderstood methods gave him a supernatural reputation.
In the film, Vidoqc is on the trail of a masked serial killer, the Alchemist. The writers explore an interesting twist on story-telling, and he 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 tracks down witnesses to fill in the blanks in Vidocq’s investigation and mysterious disappearance. Meanwhile, the Alchemist is still on the prowl and no one is safe from his mysterious powers.
What I thought of Vidocq
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 stylized camera angles are stunning. And the unrepentant window into the suffering and poverty during this time in Paris is a good reminder that the steam era wasn’t all polished brass and crisp top hats. This surreal adventure definitely earns it’s R rating.
While watching it I was struck by how foreign it felt. This 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). This 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.
Watch the trailer