This film looks spectacular. It has
been compared to Crouching Tiger, and not without justification. It
maintains a creepy atmosphere throughout. You might say it has the look
and feel of a masterpiece.
So why isn't it a masterpiece?
One critic put it succinctly:
"If you see one French costume
drama martial arts werewolf secret society romance this year, make
sure this is it."
In other words, it's just too gimmicky.
The critic above even left out one gimmick - the Mohawk Indian shaman
from Quebec who is in touch with the elemental forces of nature, and can
converse with the trees. These are European trees, but they were able to
understand him, even though he spoke "tree" with a strong North American
accent, often stressing the wrong leaf.
Oh, yeah - and the actual beast - an
ugly Muppet created by Jim Henson's people - looks like a large
porcupine covered with rubber bands.
But, all things considered, I have to
admit that this film is the Citizen Kane of pre-revolutionary French,
secret society, tree-talkin', kung-fu, giant ugly Muppet soap operas.
The Region 1 DVD in the States offers
thirty five minutes of deleted scenes with director's commentary
(actually, very interesting stuff, and unlike the Canadian DVD,
subtitled in English). One interesting detail in the director's
commentary about the deleted scenes: the shepherdess who is killed when
rescuing her lamb is the same woman whose body is found earlier in the
film. The director needed to postpone the attack scene until later in
the film, but needed a corpse earlier, so he split the scene up, hoping
that nobody would notice that it was the same woman, seemingly restored