Wednesday, October 22, 2008

JCVD: shattering stereotypes with a jump-kick.

I had the luck to meet Jean-Claude Van Damme more than a decade ago. In the course of just a brief time, my perception was of a polite, funny and accommodating guy. As we were moving into a side entrance, a fan (a middle aged woman) caught a glimpse and ran over to catch Jean-Claude's attention, calling out in French and trying to get closer to the secured area we were in. Not only did he walk back down a flight of stairs to say hello but asked my permission to do so. Later inside, he made a point to say hello and sign autographs for facility staff that were working near his location. In every respect, he was a gentleman.
It is easy to see action hero movie stars only through the filter of their films and their publicity (unfortunately I've also met one or two who seemed quite happy to live up to the arrogance of that hype). In Jean-Claude's case, his new movie JCVD not only looks to peel away every imaginable layer of hype, but takes it on with the impact of one of his trademark jump-kicks, a straight and unstoppable blow to the action hero image he's cultivated over a career's worth of movies.

I spent part of this morning watching and rewatching the trailer for JCVD, browsing through it's official movie site and watching some of the production videos that have been released and are creating a buzz over at YouTube. The film, a French production directed by Mabrouk El Mechri is being released here in the US on November 7th in limited release and was just exhibited at the Toronto and Austin Film Festivals. 
The reason it's captured my attention and is being featured on the front page of is it's unusual nature. There is a tangible strangeness that brings it's blend of action, pathos and sepia tones into shifting focus against Jean-Claude Van Demme's fictional heroics and this beaten down movie reality . An effect not too distant from the script work of Charlie Kaufman in films like Being John Malkovich and the upcoming Synecdoche, New York. The quirkiness of the project, indeed of even just the idea for the project, is what's so dammed (or is that Demme'd, sorry) fascinating. 

So far all I've seen is the trailer along with assorted clips in French.  There's also a very odd but intriguing video (one of the French trailers) that is set at the casting session to find an actor to play Jean-Claude, only to have Jean-Claude show up himself. Don't let the French clips throw you though, American's after all get their movie marketing American style and foreign promotional clips may not live up to expectations. This is one to explore on your own and we're betting the exploration will pay off, even if only to offer a lesson in totally shattering stereotypes. That the star is the one responsible for punching through the accepted hype, all the better. will be including JCVD in it's November List of movies we're most looking forward to. We'll also feature the American trailer in a review on our Trailer Takes page next week. If you're living in one of those privileged and treasured limited release cities, this one promises a glimpse of an action hero movie star even that French-speaking fan may not recognize but one you may not be likely to forget.

Here's a video clip of the US trailer courtesy of

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