Silver Screen Streak List #05: 02. Divine carcasse (1998)

Divine carcasse (1998)

dir.: Dominique Loreau

Divine carcasse (1998): Reviewed

At first glance, Divine carcasse (1998) is the kind of movie I was wary of encountering from this list: something between a student film and a middling Frontline documentary, with a simplistic narrative, stock music and no clear sense of aesthetics. But Belgian filmmaker and writer Dominique Loreau captures something thoughtful here, and shows at least the intentions of “slow cinema” even if she doesn't have the equipment or technical sophistication to fully pull it off.

Part documentary, part fiction, Divine carcasse tells the story of a vintage Peugeot automobile, which is imported into Benin by a nostalgic European expatriate. When the car proves unreliable — and possibly cursed by local superstitions — the man gives the car to a Beninese worker, who considers it his key to a better life. When the car breaks down yet again, and is eventually abandoned, a Beninese artist deconstructs the car and uses its materials to construct a folk artifact.

At a short 60 minutes, Divine carcasse moves at a (sometimes too) leisurely pace, with Loreau quietly taking in the different reactions to and purposing of the car, from envy and excitement, to consternation and disregard. The vehicle's transformation from something of promise, to disappointment, and ultimately divine is always low-key interesting, even when the camera lingers too long on some moments. There’s maybe a little too much invested in the obvious juxtaposition of the modern and the primitive, and the brief staged portions of the narrative are a bit clunky, but Loreau’s approach is so unobtrusive that the facile messaging never feels too explicit. It's a minor work, but not an offensive one, and the rare look at Beninese culture is welcome.

In what is sure to be a recurring refrain while exploring Cinemascapist's list of "The Best African Movies, from All 54 Countries," the quality of the available copy of Divine carcasse (1998) is terrible. It may well be a more visually accomplished movie than I was able to discern, but which has since been diluted by low quality format transfers.

Divine carcasse (1998): Ranked

Divine carcasse (1998) squeaks into the top half of my Flickchart, with a rank of #2262 (52.91%), which means that my streak through Andy Nelson's list of Cinemascapist's "The Best African Movies, From All 54 African Countries" continues to a third film, N!AI, THE STORY OF A !KUNG WOMAN (1980), a documentary filmed in Botswana by noted anthropologist John Marshall in collaboration with Adrienne Miesmer.


Divine carcasse (1998) Gallery

By dorrk
21 May 2020

A.K.A.

Divine Body

Inland Empire (2006)

Discuss on Facebook

The Top 20 Movies of All-Time

#1: The Godfather Part II (1974)

#1: The Godfather Part II (1974)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#2: The Godfather (1972)

#2: The Godfather (1972)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#3: West Side Story (1961)

#3: West Side Story (1961)

Dir: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
#4: Manhattan (1979)

#4: Manhattan (1979)

Dir: Woody Allen
#5: The Graduate (1967)

#5: The Graduate (1967)

Dir: Mike Nichols
#6: Tootsie (1982)

#6: Tootsie (1982)

Dir: Sydney Pollack
#7: Apocalypse Now (1979)

#7: Apocalypse Now (1979)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#8: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

#8: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Dir: Irvin Kershner
#9: Star Wars (1977)

#9: Star Wars (1977)

Dir: George Lucas
#10: The Exorcist (1973)

#10: The Exorcist (1973)

Dir: William Friedkin
#11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

#11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Dir: Peter Jackson
#12: Taxi Driver (1976)

#12: Taxi Driver (1976)

Dir: Martin Scorsese
#13: Annie Hall (1977)

#13: Annie Hall (1977)

Dir: Woody Allen
#14: Vertigo (1958)

#14: Vertigo (1958)

Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
#15: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

#15: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Dir: Steven Spielberg
#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Dir: Tobe Hooper
#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

Dir: Frank Capra
#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Dir: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
#20: Zodiac (2007)

#20: Zodiac (2007)

Dir: David Fincher